My start in dog training

A brief history in dog training

I started training my own dogs about 10 years ago. At the time we had Superstar Mollie, who was a tricoloured border collie cross. She was a little highly strung but sharp as a tack when it came to training. Bosco, my boy, came to us in January 2012 at 8 weeks old. He was a Dogue de Bordeaux, the most handsome example of the breed I have ever seen (although, admittedly, I am a little biased). Not too tall and built like a tank, he loved a ball, tug games and treats but unfortunately, I learnt compulsion training as my start and we didn’t have an awful lot of fun during the first few years of his life as I had been taught wrongly that he was being dominant and that I had to control him through rank reduction programmes and the like.

A year later, I got our sweet sweet girl Kitty, the Neapolitan Mastiff. A great example of the breed, tight skin on her body and only a little loose skin and she could move like a greyhound. I’ll post more about the dogs individually later.

Being a cross over trainer, I have the benefit of experience of both camps. I now use no physically aversive techniques and only occasionally use some techniques which may be mildly aversive psychologically. I can categorically state that aversive techniques do work in training and can have a short term effect on the manifestations of some problem behaviours. Do I agree with them any more? Absolutely not. I have had a few discussions both online and at conferences on the use of aversive training and am also very careful and deliberate to state that I no longer use nor agree with punitive training. Having said that, when I started training all those years ago i successfully taught all my dogs to walk on a loose leash, recalls and down-stays using a prong collar.

Skinner proved all those moons ago that positive punishment does work. I am not proud of using these techniques in the past but I am where I am today in part because of them and my knowledge of them, although my relationship with my three very special dogs unfortunately suffered as a result and due to the early death of Bosco, I didn’t get the opportunity to fully repair that but I hope I did go some way towards it.

Which brings me to the way I train just now. I’ll post later about the influences which brought me fully to where I am but basically I started to read everything I could. Ian Dunbar has played a massive roll in my learning, along with Stanley Coren, Jean Donaldson, Sophia Yin, Ray Coppinger and many others.

As I got better at training, friends, family and work mates would ask for advice and my girlfriend encouraged me to start my own business and make it a bit more official. I take on most cases from recall and general manners to separation distress and aggression cases. Most of my experience comes from dealing with dog-dog aggression as I have suffered through it myself (again, more later)

The most I now give to a dog is a verbal non reward marker and rely heavily on counter conditioning through positive reinforcement and am using Grisha Stewart’s Behavioural Adjustment Training which uses negative reinforcement, for aggression cases and am having good success with it.

That’s all for now folks, constructive comments are always welcome.

John McGuigan

Glasgow Dog Trainer and Behaviour Consultant

http://www.glasgowdogtrainer.co.uk

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I started training my own dogs about 10 years ago. At the time we had Superstar Mollie, who was a tricoloured border collie cross. She was a little highly strung but sharp as a tack when it came to training. Bosco, my boy, came to us in January 2001 at 8 weeks old. He was a Dogue de Bordeaux, the most handsome example of the breed I have ever seen (although, admittedly, I am a little biased). Not too tall and built like a tank, he loved a ball, tug games and treats but unfortunately, I learnt compulsion training as my start and we didn’t have an awful lot of fun during the first few years of his life as I had been taught wrongly that he was being dominant and that I had to control him through rank reduction programmes and the like.

A year later, I got our sweet sweet girl Kitty, the Neapolitan Mastiff. A great example of the breed, tight skin on her body and only a little loose skin and she could move like a greyhound. I’ll post more about the dogs individually later.

Being a cross over trainer, I have the benefit of experience of both camps. I now use no physically aversive techniques and only occasionally use some techniques which may be mildly aversive psychologically. I can categorically state that aversive techniques do work in training and can have a short term effect on the manifestations of some problem behaviours. Do I agree with them any more? Absolutely not. I have had a few discussions both online and at conferences on the use of aversive training and am also very careful and deliberate to state that I no longer use nor agree with punitive training. Having said that, when I started training all those years ago I successfully taught all my dogs to walk on a loose leash, recalls and down-stays using a prong collar.

Skinner proved all those moons ago that positive punishment does work. I am not proud of using these techniques in the past but I am where I am today, in part, because of them and my knowledge of them, although my relationship with my three very special dogs unfortunately suffered as a result and due to the early death of Bosco, I didn’t get the opportunity to fully repair that but I hope I did go some way towards it.

Which brings me to the way I train just now. I’ll post later about the influences which brought me fully to where I am but basically I started to read everything I could. Ian Dunbar has played a massive roll in my learning, along with Stanley Coren, Jean Donaldson, Sophia Yin, Ray Coppinger and many others.

As I got better at training, friends, family and work mates would ask for advice and my girlfriend encouraged me to start my own business and make it a bit more official. I take on most cases from recall and general manners to separation distress and aggression cases. Most of my experience comes from dealing with dog-dog aggression as I have suffered through it myself (again, more later)

The most I now give to a dog is a verbal non reward marker and rely heavily on counter conditioning through positive reinforcement and am using Grisha Stewart’s Behavioural Adjustment Training which uses negative reinforcement, for aggression cases and am having good success with it.

That’s all for now folks, constructive comments are always welcome.

John McGuigan

Glasgow Dog Trainer and Behaviour Consultant

http://www.glasgowdogtrainer.co.uk

One thought on “My start in dog training

  1. Good blog John. Nice to read an honest piece. I think a lot of positive reinforcement trainers have come from the other end of the spectrum at some time or other and it does shape who you are as a trainer now. Thankfully there is loads of information out there and some really great trainers (some of whom you mentioned in your blog) and this will lead to more and more people being educated about dogs in a good way. Learning what a dog is, how they learn and how to have fun teaching them to cope with our world.

    Looking forward to a next installment.

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