“Uncle Joe’s Visit”

More on Obedience Training vs. Behaviorism.

This is just one trainer’s perspective. It is not right or wrong, good or bad. It is not the only way, but it is one way. Thank you.

“Uncle Joe” is a fictional person that I am using as an example in my story below…but he could be any one of your relatives who insists that he’s “great with dogs” or “don’t worry, I don’t mind if he jumps on me”.  I say…”that’s great Uncle Joe but my dog is NOT good with people who are great with dogs!” in the hopes Uncle Joe will get the message.

I had totally forgotten that I actually have a YouTube Channel for CBS! I was tooling around checking video’s with my daughter yesterday and stumbled back onto my YouTube channel. I actually have 93 video’s on it.

But, hands down, this one is my all-time favorite videos. It recalls a time for me, not all that long ago, where my focus on what is actually important in training dogs was markedly different than it is today. 

There was a time, not long ago, where I was led to believe that “telling dogs what to do and when to do it” was the way you’re supposed to train dogs. So that’s how I trained dogs and their owners…to “tell their dogs what to do and when to do it”, otherwise known as Obedience Training. It certainly seemed to “work well” for me and my dogs.

But in reality, what I was experiencing with the average dog owner, and even my clients and their dog(s), was a huge disconnect. The process seemed flawed. Sure, the dog would “listen” to the owner and SIT/STAY on command with great consistency…when there was little to no distraction. Some owners were even good enough at it to get their dog to “do it” on command with some pretty serious distractions. It seems all well and good, right? So what’s the problem?

The problem is that it almost never…forget almost…it NEVER really worked when the owner actually NEEDED it to work! 

Let’s take greeting people or guests, at the front door, when they arrive at the home. The owner would follow every one of my directions and practice their Obedience exercises, in this case, the SIT, every day, several times a day, for weeks. They get REALLY good at it. The dog would SIT/STAY even when the owner threw his favorite tennis ball.

But that’s it…whenever an actual guest comes to visit, rings the doorbell and the owner approaches the door and tells the dog to SIT/STAY, initially he will because the owner has previously practiced this at the front door. But as soon as the door is opened and he sees it’s a well-known human (Uncle Joe with a pocket full of treats!), he stands and Jumps Up on Uncle Joe’s chest, who in turn politely grabs the dogs feet, places them on the ground (all the while the owner is repeatedly “asking” the dog to “SIT/STAY” from the end of a tight leash 5 feet away and behind him).

For the sensitive..cover your ears. That’s what I call a “shit-show!”…sorry, but it’s really hard to watch from my perspective and thankfully, my clients (now and for the last 8-9 years) do NOT do things like that. At least as far as I know!

Of course, I understand that Obedience Training CAN be executed to the level that the dog will obey the verbal commands in almost all scenarios…but in my experience, finding an owner who has reached this level with their dog is quite rare.

So what was so bad about it you ask…the owner tried right? Sure, but in so many instances, like this one…you’re better off doing NOTHING than doing the WRONG THING!

Anyway, I could keep talking about this for days and days but what I will do is to finish this story about Uncle Joe’s visit and post in the BlogHouse…the CBS Blog page on our website. ASAP I will have the 2nd half of this “lesson” or story about why I completely stopped (almost) training using verbal commands and began on the journey of discovery. This “discovery” of a new (to me), highly logical, more rational and pragmatic, truly natural, dog-centric, symbiotic “methodology” with which to train dogs was life & career changing.

What I found was this clean and unencumbered process that dogs found highly intelligible and would open the doors to some pretty profound behavioral change in dogs that had been through sometimes multiple different trainers and often times on “deaths door”, slated for the “blue juice”. (i.e. Euthanasia)

Once again, I digress. This started with me just wanting you to see this great video from March 2015 with the “man, the myth, the legend”- the late, great Ruger Vom Wachter. 

When Ruger was 1.5 years old, I took him to an old friend named Mike B. He owns a dog training company in CT. Not sure of the business name but don’t need to bring it in – not sure how he’d feel so trying to be respectful. (haven’t spoken to him in years…I don’t think he likes me because I became a professional dog trainer not too long after meeting and working with him). 

I brought Ruger for serious Obedience Training. I would label it Compulsory Obedience Training, as far as I understand it today. It was long ago but I don’t believe there were any treats involved. Ruger stayed there with Mike but I came and did 5 x 1 hour Sessions with Mike and Ruger there at his facility before taking him back home. It was done using Herm Sprenger collarsn (Pinch Collars and eCollars – not sugar-coating it…it was a shock collar and at the setting level Mike had the collar set to…well, we were NOT messing around.

Now, you can say and feel however you want about this type of training and please understand I would never do this with one of my dogs now, knowing there’s a better way. But if I had to train a guard dog, police dog, etc…or a protection dog – I’d likely select and nurture the dog that could handle this level of training and not be phased by it emotionally. 

Ruger was the right dog for this training at the right time in his life and it was done the right way for this type of training. It was, and still is when done correctly, highly effective. No BS however…what the basic premise from the dog’s perspective…he learns there’s a short latency period between the time the handler says “SIT” and the time the dog receives a HIGHLY Undesirable Consequence in the form of a shock to his neck (Punishment) BUT if he gets his ass to the ground quick enough, he can avoid the shock altogether and make the handler happy (Reinforcement).

In my belief, from the point of view of this 1.5 yr old intact male Rottweiler oozing with confidence and trust in his handler and trained using old school, compulsory tactics…he’s MORE than happy to touch his butt to the ground and stick it there until further notice AS FAST AS HE CAN once he hears that word…”SIT:.

Great job old buddy! Enjoy…sorry for the rant…