Notes for Pierce’s Article About Ultrasonic Devices

This is a very good article by Jessica Pierce:

Are Ultrasonic Dog Training Devices Really Safe and Humane?

One point of correction at the end of it: their following statement is incorrect.

“Food treats are good to start with but as training progresses your dog should recognise verbal praise and a pat as a treat.”

There is no inherent reason to stop reinforcing behaviors with things dogs prefer (food) and deliver something they may like but not as much (verbal praise and a pat). Each dog has preferences and may prefer different types of rewards at different times, but in general food-treats tend to be higher value to dogs than things such as praise.

Once a dog is further along in training, behaviors can be rewarded some of the time (intermittent reinforcement), which keeps the behaviors strong over time, and different types of rewards can be used including treats, toys, the chance to meet or play with other dogs, the chance to go on a walk or run off leash, or praise, gentle petting, etc.

But there is no reason to completely stop rewarding with food/treats.

Aversive training methods like ultrasonic devices and techniques designed to notice behavior problems and punish them, do harm dogs and can lead to additional problems. Dogs who are constantly, and often times randomly punished end up more uncomfortable. It’s common for dogs who are punished for barking to bark more, even though that’s not the person’s intended outcome.

Using positive reinforcement methods allows dogs to understand how the training process works (they perform behaviors for rewards), and then they can relax, leading to problems like upset-frustration barking simply vanishing or drastically decreasing.

It’s also important to address the underlying reason for barking. For example, if a dog has separation anxiety – an extreme phobia of being left alone – punishment only makes this worse. It just proves to the dog that being left alone is scary. Not only was there original extreme fear, but with electronic devices causing discomfort or pain, it just adds to dog’s mental suffering and anxiety. Instead we want to help these dogs desensitize to being left alone, to make them more comfortable and free from fear.

By Dan Raymer

Explanation for Purely Positive, R+, and Punishment Training

Note: R+ is a symbol for positive reinforcement.

Sometimes people will try to deter others away from positive reinforcement training by claiming there is no purely positive training, or it does not work.

This is really a non-argument, though. Behaviors can be trained with errorless learning, where the behavior is broken down into enough parts that the animal is reinforced (or rewarded) only for correct behaviors until it is shaped into the final behavior.

So that would be purely positive training that does work, but it’s also not part of the majority of positive reinforcement trainers’ plans.

There’s nothing wrong with withholding or removing rewards for incorrect responses in order to punish (i.e. decrease) behavior, while using it in conjunction with rewards (meaning the dog won’t get frustrated because he’s set up to succeed the majority of the time). It’s not punish, punish, punish, punish, etc., but rather reward-reward-no reward-reward and more along those lines.

It allows dogs to learn when they perform the correct behavior they receive a reward (helping them understand it was correct), and when they do not perform the correct behavior they receive no reward (allowing them to understand it wasn’t correct, and to try something else).

And this is the way most trainers shape behavior, by rewarding the desirable behaviors among those offered by the dog, and ignoring the unwanted ones (meaning we don’t have to set it up in an errorless learning type of situation, because that simply wastes time – dogs can handle experiencing no reward for trying incorrect behaviors).

Clearly, though, there is an blatant difference between removing/withholding rewards for incorrect behavior, and directly punishing dogs with harsh physical corrections (with leash jerks, special sharp collars or ones that cut-off the dog’s airway, or shock them at whatever level). Both of these categories of consequences are intended to decrease unwanted behavior, but they are obviously not equal. The latter group compromises dog’s welfare and should not be used. It’s also not necessary when we have the other easy to implement option available as a training technique.

If you haven’t switched over to positive reinforcement/reward-based training, go ahead and start today. Your dogs will love you for it.

By Dan Raymer

Book Review: Doggie Language

Title: Doggie Language: A Dog Lover’s Guide To Understanding Your Best Friend by Lili Chin

This little book in physical size and shortness (about 125 pages), is packed with useful information about dog behavior and body language. The best part forms from the author’s speciality: dog illustrations. The pictures are colorful and cute, but most importantly they are accurate in detail, displaying correct postures and the resulting communication derived from them. It also includes several different dog breed illustrations, noting what differences to pay attention to like tail carriage.

I could have done without a couple of the captions (for example, “Lol” and “You dumb”), but that’s a minor point among all of the key concepts the book presents.

Would I recommend to:

Dog Owners? Yes!

Dog Professionals? Yes!

By Dan Raymer

Raymer Family Dog Training: Online Animal Training Classes

We are currently updating our website, and the way we will offer animal training classes moving forward. Some pages may temporarily be inaccessible. If you are interested in enrolling in training classes once they are launched again, you can contact us as normal. Thank you for your patience during this time.

Update March 3, 2021:

Our online dog and puppy training class is now accepting enrollments again (with one year of access). At this time we no longer have monthly memberships available, but may again in the future. Stay-tuned and subscribe to email notifications for updates. Thanks!

– Dan Raymer