Dog training that doesn't involve pain.
September 13, 2011 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm adopting a Border Collie puppy in two months. I want to take a different approach to training this time - no hitting or swatting. What books and other resources can I get now to teach myself the proper way to do this?

I'd like to take a positive reinforcement approach. The main issue is that I tend to swat as a last resort if "No!" doesn't work. Before Puppy gets here I'd like to learn the proper methods both to train her without swatting as well as what to do when I'm frustrated and nothing else is working. The obvious thing to do seems to be to crate her, but I'd rather not do that either because I don't want to separate her from socialness.
posted by Pericardium to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really liked Ian Dunbar's Before and After Getting Your Puppy.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:47 AM on September 13, 2011


A friend of mine, who also has a rescue Border Collie, uses Be The Dog.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 10:50 AM on September 13, 2011


Strongly recommend clickertraining. Check out Karen Pryors website.
posted by Ferrari328 at 10:57 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you hit your last dog... I am kind of at a loss to explain why you would get another dog? If you are under so much stress as to find yourself behaving cruelly, and you have trouble controlling your frustrations, the answer is to fix that first before adopting. I mean no offence, but it sounds like a person-training method is in order here before a dog-training one.

A puppy is still going to be a puppy and still going to be frustrating here and there no matter what school of dog-training thought you're following. It doesn't sound like you were "swatting" as part of a training method, but just when you lost your cool; a non-"swatting" method isn't going to fix the real problem here. Anger management classes, perhaps?
posted by kmennie at 10:57 AM on September 13, 2011


Patricia McConnell (blog | website) has written some good books on rewards based training, some of which we've employed with our dog.
posted by itstheclamsname at 11:04 AM on September 13, 2011


kmennie: By frustrating, I didn't mean that I got angry and hit the dog. I meant that "No!" wasn't working and I knew a swat would.

I'm going to clarify a few things just in case: I haven't had a puppy since I was sixteen, the animal from the example was a cat that kept attacking my hand. I've never gotten frustrated with puppy-behaviors, I just used that as an example because I don't want to train Puppy that way in the future.
posted by Pericardium at 11:12 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you adopting your puppy from a nearby border collie breeder or rescue? They might have specific recommendations, because border collies are a unique breed when it comes to training needs. They're so intelligent that they require a lot more stimulation and activity, even compared to other working breeds (you probably already know that). More than just obedience training, you might look into local agility training groups for good physical and mental exercise.
posted by gladly at 11:17 AM on September 13, 2011


Once you're past the initial OMGpuppy phase, you might consider a subscription to The Bark. It's the least bonkers of the dog magazines and it features regular columns by Patricia McConnell and other leaders in the positive-reward community. It's a great source for training tips, as well as more in-depth articles about dog health (physical and mental) and the work of dogs.

Keep in mind that Border Collies are some of the most challenging dogs to train (here's my BC mutt) and, along with Australian Cattle Dogs, are some of the dogs most frequently surrendered to rescue groups. If you're not confident in your training abilities, I suggest you reconsider your choice of breed or postpone the adoption until you have the skills you will certainly need.
posted by workerant at 11:18 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


... and oh yeah, the training group at dogforums.com is a wealth of knowledge. Read every sticky thread, especially Be a Tree.
posted by workerant at 11:23 AM on September 13, 2011


Maybe you can ask her.
posted by bbxx at 11:42 AM on September 13, 2011


Have you considered Clicker Training? Many people swear by it.

Here's a video
posted by Invoke at 11:54 AM on September 13, 2011


As gladly mentioned above, I highly recommend taking your dog to obedience and/or agility training. I had a border collie from puppyhood until she was 13 years old, and they are super-smart dogs that require a lot of stimulation and exercise. Obedience classes really are the way to go here. Added bonus is that you will likely have one of the smartest dogs in the class so you can giggle behind your hand while the owners of the cute-but-dumb mutts struggle. Obedience classes will teach you how to use your voice to control your dog, and remind you to praise, praise, praise when the training is going well.

I'm sure you've thought this through carefully but as workerant says, don't do it unless you're totally committed. I used to walk my dog for 2 hours per day. That was what she needed in order to stay healthy and happy (I'm sure she would have gone on for another hour after that if I'd been up for it!) Belonging to a community of dog owners, like you'll find at a good obedience club, really is the best way to go about learning how to get along with your dog, fulfil his or her needs and ensure that he or she is healthy and happy.
posted by rubbish bin night at 12:03 PM on September 13, 2011


Border collies are super eager to please dogs and respond very well if not best to positive training. Puppies will do things wrong, they are still learning the trick is to basically ignore the behaviour you don't and praise the behaviour you do.

I have seen clicker training work on dogs that are considered almost untrainable (which is pretty much the opposite of a border collie). I have a love of strong minded independent terrier dogs and have not had one that could not be trained with nothing but positive reinforcement & some clicker training techniques. I am even now training up a Rat Terrier who was considered untrainable by the rescue group that I got him from to do Agility.

The best way to learn training methods is in classes and it is probably well worth asking around in your area to find trainers that specialize in the areas you are interested in. A Border Collie will love going to any sort of class and learning things as they have an insatiable need to do work of some kind and the troubles with them come about when this need is not met. Also you will learn the skills you need to handle this super smart and energetic breed.
posted by wwax at 12:05 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love any of the Monks of New Skete books.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:26 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The dog training books (The Art of Raising a Puppy, How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend) published by The Monks of New Skeet (yes, Orthodox Christitan monks in New York who train dogs) are very good. I understand they now offer dog training videos as well as books.

Keep in mind that Border Collies are some of the most challenging dogs to train and. . . (is one breed) most frequently surrendered to rescue groups

Seconding this.

A BC is not the best choice for a first-time (as an adult) dog owner. You don't get your super-smart dog for free. You have to earn it by spending lots of time in stimulating activity with her. A Border will not be happy living the lifestyle of a typical Golden Retriever on TV, showing up for a quick game of fetch on Saturday afternoon, and the rest of the time, a fuzzy orange lump by the fire.

Borders require constant stimulation. They will NOT tolerate being left alone for hours. They need a job as they were bred to, and if you don't provide one, they will find or invent one on their own.

Border Collies who don't have enough to do will stare at a faucet for hours waiting for the next drip. Or obsessively herd the cat. Or carefully remove each book from a bookshelf one by one and lick all the glue off the spine. Or systematically chew up every button from every article of clothing in a closet. I am not making these up. A bored Border is trouble.

Owning a Border Collie is like having a precocious toddler, an unemployed teenager, and OCD Detective "Monk" in one body living in your house -- for twelve or fifteen years.

Starting from scratch with a Border Collie puppy, you will need more than books and videos. You must find a good local dog trainer who has experience with herding breeds. This is not just about teaching the dog 'obedience' but teaching both of you how to build your relationship together. I've heard lessons called "owner effectiveness" rather than "obedience" and this is not far off the mark. The dog is only learning which dog behaviours are OK and which aren't (and when), whereas you are learning how dogs respond to pack, prey, and play instincts, and figuring out how to make that work in your household. You must learn how to be the alpha leader of pack of dog geniuses.

Start lessons as soon as possible and after that, take the 'advanced" classes. Herding classes. Agility classes. Fylball classes. Search and rescue classes.

> I'd like to take a positive reinforcement approach.

The Monks of New Skete are all about this. They specialize in breeding German Shepherd Dogs, btw, so they have day-to-day experience with large, active, biddable, intelligent dogs.

> The main issue is that I tend to swat as a last resort if "No!" doesn't work. Before Puppy gets here I'd like to learn the proper methods

Opinion: If you don't learn how to use a choke collar to properly shape behaviour, you're going to have trouble. A Border needs firm, but not hysterical guidance from the pack alpha -- you. Dogs are very sensitive to our moods; they'll tolerate physical correction that works the way mama dog did it when they were puppies; but if you freak out, a Border Collie will shut down. She'll think you're a jerk and will only obey grudgingly. A quick jerk with a choker PRECEDED by a firm NO! from a calm, confident, and consistent alpha dog usually gets the point across in a very few iterations.

My very domninant female English Shepherd (foundation breed for BCs, Aussies, and probably "Lassie" Collies" still needed a choke every now and then and took it in stride. On the other hand, she could not stay in the same room as me whenever I was having "computer problems" because even if I didn't swear out loud, she could tell I was upset, and an out of control alpha she could not deal with.

>The obvious thing to do seems to be to crate her, but I'd rather not do that either because I don't want to separate her from socialness.

AHHHHH!!! A dog crate is not a punishment device! and it has little to do with socialization. Properly crate-trained dogs are also properly socialized. The dog has to see the crate as a safe haven. The crate has nothing to do with separating the dog from its pack and everything to do with both you and the dog knowing that she's in a safe place.

Later. . . I see that as I wrote this, others have contributed similar advice.

I used to walk my dog for 2 hours per day. That was what she needed in order to stay healthy and happy (I'm sure she would have gone on for another hour after that if I'd been up for it!) Belonging to a community of dog owners, like you'll find at a good obedience club, really is the best way to go about learning how to get along with your dog, fulfil his or her needs and ensure that he or she is healthy and happy.

Second, thirding, and fourthing this! Two hours of walks is probably a minimum for the first three to five years. And dog parks, dog events, dog activity clubs are great things and will help you maintain your sanity.

The short version is, you're bringing home a scary-smart high-energy dog that needs a job. You will need all the help you can get, and that means lots of live training classes with a good trainer who knows herding breeds.

Good luck. If you can handle the energy level, a Border Collie is as much fun as you can have with a dog, and you can bask in her reflected glory.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:34 PM on September 13, 2011


Seconding the Monks of New Skete books. They're excellent.
posted by Koko at 1:16 PM on September 13, 2011


Kikopup is an excellent video resource for positive dog training.
posted by bwilms at 1:30 PM on September 13, 2011


I've heard good things about The Loved Dog by Tamar Geller. (Sorry no link, posting from phone.)
posted by trillian at 1:36 PM on September 13, 2011


biscotti links to a few books (scroll down to "recommended reading"). I'll try to remember to remind her to look here but you could always memail her.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2011


Please, please don't listen to Herodios or use the Monks of New Skete books if you want to do positive, nonviolent training. The Monks of New Skete advocate outdated violence-based training methods. And please, please don't use a choke collar! That's the exact opposite of positive training.

Note that true positive training actually means not saying "No!" to your dog. The focus should be on communicating to your dog what TO do, not what NOT TO do. If your dog is not listening to you, and not responding when you say "No!", then you need a different approach.

Patricia McConnell is great, particularly The Other End of the Leash. Other good resources include:
- The Power of Positive Dog Training and other books by Pat Miller
- Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor
- On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas
- The Whole Dog Journal, a monthly publication. For a $20 subscription you get access to their entire online archive, which is a gold mine of information on positive training and lots of other topics.
posted by medusa at 3:46 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"violence"-based training methods. . .

The technical term for that trope is 'poisoning the well', but thanks for reminding me.

As you see, Pericardium, there's no escape from politics even (maybe especially) with dog training, so inevitably you are going to get contradictory advice from various quarters.

So take the consensus advice here that you'll need more help than you can get online or through books and videos.

Find a local trainer or two. Talk to 'em about your plans and concerns. They love talking dogs (or else they're in the wrong business). Find one that's a good fit for you. Do try to find one with herding breed experience.

There's such a thing as puppy kindergarten; some start as early as 8 weeks. You probably couldn't start too early with a BC.

Find the local BC owner and / or rescue organization and ask them all these questions, starting before you bring puppy home.
 
posted by Herodios at 5:17 PM on September 13, 2011


I've raised awesome dogs using the Monks' method. The most violent thing I've ever done to a dog was growl at it.
posted by kamikazegopher at 5:26 PM on September 13, 2011


In addition to the great recommendations here, try Jean Donaldson's The Culture Clash, it completely changed my views on dogs and dog training.

And yes, a training class is not optional, look for a modern, science-based dog trainer who uses positive methods.

And a Border Collie will likely need a job to do - herding, agility, flyball..something.

Good luck and congratulations on trying to turn positive.

(The Monks are more positive in their newer book than they had been, but are still heavily dominance and punishment based, and since the OP is specifically asking for positive methods, choke chains are maybe not appropriate suggestions - politics aside, corrections based training is not positive training).
posted by biscotti at 7:13 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


2nding finding a local training facility - with a border collie you're going to need some ongoing activity, a flyball group or agility training or SOMETHING. Those dogs are wicked smart, and if you don't give them a job to do and keep them busy, they'll make up their own entertainment (and odds are you won't like it).

See if you can find two or three AAHA accredited vet clinics/hospitals in your area to call and ask for ideas or recommendations for hands-on training. I grew up doing obedience classes with my dog, and they were a great experience for lots of different reasons. My dog loved them, and I learned a LOT. So fun! Enjoy that puppy. :^)
posted by hms71 at 7:18 PM on September 13, 2011


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