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    1. #1
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      Reliability and the Retrieve: Justifying the Ear Pinch?

      One more...

      This one may be more controversial for some, but I thought the article was, overall, really good. Not just about the ear-pinch, but about training in general and definitely about performing. What I take from it is similar to "it's not the destination that counts, it's the journey". For all the time and all the money we spend with our dogs while training, the five minutes or so in the ring or at the line and the $35 entry fee, should not define our relationship with our dogs.

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    3. #2
      Best Friend Retriever
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      Thanks for posting this. I'm surprised I hadn't seen it, and I love Suzanne Clothier's writing.

      I really roll my eyes when field trainers refer to it as pressure. Not what it really is, punishment and force.

      Between the ear pinch and the abusive use of a heeling stick, it's unconscionable what some do in the name of winning field trials and hunt tests.

      Among the many quotable moments in that article:

      Why would such treatment be unacceptable? Why would you be outraged if your child's teacher used hair pulling as a way to teach your child to reliably perform multiplication? Would it be okay if your boss disguised the blow to the head by calling it a "love thump," and he justified it by telling you how far you could rise on the corporate ladder. Would it be acceptable if your child's teacher cloaked her techniques as an "hair massage," and pointed out that your child's math scores were perhaps better than the children whose hair had not been pulled?
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      ​Decisions, decisions, decisions


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      “It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”

      Cheryl Zuccaro

    4. #3
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      I think there are different levels of compulsion available to us as trainers. There are some who are “positive only” who use just rewards and never any type of “force” to get the dog to do what they want. Personally, I find dogs trained this way to be much less reliable. There are some mostly old-school trainer who use primarily compulsion and force to get the dog to do what they want with few if any rewards or praise. I find these dogs can be good workers, but do not appear to be enjoying themselves in the least.

      The way we train is probably a mix. Things are taught with luring/rewards etc., but once the dog does know the exercise if it chooses not to comply, then we do use corrections to make sure they know it is not optional, but the amount/severity of the correction depends on both the offense and the dog. For retrieving, I have never yet had to use an ear pinch. A simple collar pop to the dumbbell, glove, etc., with a firm “I said TAKE IT” is enough of a correction for mine (and only given once they know what “Take it” means. Since they naturally want to retrieve, we can teach the exercise too them very easily, without needing any force or compulsion. Where we train, the purpose of an ear pinch is for a dog who is adamantly refusing to even open their mouth to take the object. This is needed for some other dogs we train with (not retrievers) and for them, the instructor who is very experienced does do a forced retrieve to get them to understand what is wanted. The ear pinch is accompanied by tons of praise/rewards as soon as they open their mouths to take the object. Most need only one session of this before they get the point. Some will never learn to love retrieving, but they will at least learn to do it when asked.
      Annette

      Cookie (Jamrah’s Legally Blonde, BN) 6/4/2015
      Sassy (Jamrah’s Blonde Ambition, BN) 6/4/2015

      Chloe (HIT HC Windsong’s Femme Fatale, UDX2, OM4) 6/7/2009


      Remembering:
      Scully (Coventry's Truth Is Out There, UD, RN) 4/4/1996 - 6/30/2011
      Our foster Jolie (UCh Windsong’s Genuine Risk, CDX, WC) 5/26/1999 - 3/2/2014
      and Mulder (Coventry’s I Want to Believe, UD, VER, WC, RN) 5/26/1999 - 4/20/2015

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    6. #4
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      Not to comment one way or the other on the point of the article, but I usually roll my eyes and move on when someone starts using dog-human comparisons. It just does not work for so many reasons.

    7. #5
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      Quote Originally Posted by charlie'sdad View Post
      Not to comment one way or the other on the point of the article, but I usually roll my eyes and move on when someone starts using dog-human comparisons. It just does not work for so many reasons.
      I like the article. I don't like anthropomorphizing either, but I see it more as pointing out the hypocrisy in how we think about experiences, teaching, etc.

      All dog sports are ultimately human sports, as far as I'm concerned. They're more for us. The ribbons, titles, and all that are for us. The experience and the time together, that's what the dog wants. We owe our partners empathy, or we should take up tennis, or archery.
      Laura, Archie & Quinn
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    9. #6
      Best Friend Retriever
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      Quote Originally Posted by charlie'sdad View Post
      Not to comment one way or the other on the point of the article, but I usually roll my eyes and move on when someone starts using dog-human comparisons. It just does not work for so many reasons.
      It works to make the point. And that's what it's all about. The dogs can't read, the humans do. And the humans can relate what they know, and feel. It's why she's such an excellent writer. It's not anthropomorphizing at all. It's using our experiences to help get the point across.

      I've never said I wasn't against corrections, but the ear pinch to force a retrieve, and calling it "pressure" is wrong. As are some of the other methods used by field trainers. A heeling stick to guide is fine, but to hit the dog to make it heel properly isn't fine.

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    11. #7
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      Let me surprise everyone here. I agree with the article almost 100%. With this caveat: the author is writing from the standpoint of the obedience ring. If you have a willing, well-bred retriever (especially a lab!) I don't think you'd need the ear-pinch at all. The author, however, is unschooled about the training needed for Hunting Retriever Tests and Retriever Field Trials. ("Unschooled", in this context, is a charitable and fair adjective. Indeed, I think, if pressed on the issue, she would probably agree with it.)

      I think non-field lab people imagine the force fetch (a more accurate term than "ear-pinch") to be all about NO! (As in... don't even THINK about spitting that bird/bumper out!) Non-field folk don't understand how much of our training is about GO! GO! under, around, through any obstruction, GO across a a body of water, GO over a point of land, and back into the water, then GO... DRIVE up a bank, across a field and (finally) fetch. We cannot crush a dog with pain at a foundational point in their training and expect that kind of drive. (Please remember, in the ring you are working at a distance of what...50 feet? We are working at sometimes over 300 yards.)

      So, there's that.

      About that 100% reliability thing... yes. Our dogs are (in every way that matters) 100% reliable. They are so reliable that a lab that blinks (doesn't pick up) a bird they're standing over... it means they are ill. We've diagnosed fox tail and abscessed teeth because the dog wouldn't pick up a bird or was gingerly about it.

      So, her use of the term "ear-pinch", her skepticism about 100% reliability, and her uniformly negative associations of FF with aversion, convince me she should visit some hunt tests and field trials and teach us how her methods could result in the finished retrievers that she sees.

      Now, I want you to understand, most of us don't pinch ears. Even those that do, don't apply any more pressure than it takes to annoy or worry the dog. BUT, if you think that doing that much is immoral or unfair, that, nothing in our sport, or in hunting waterfowl is worth doing that in training our dogs... then, I don't think anything we field sport types can say will convince you.

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    13. #8
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      Apologies for being harsh. I could stand to learn a lot from Obedience trainers. a LOT! Honest. (Just not about FF.)

    14. #9
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      I'm not ashamed to admit it, and at the possible revocation of my man card, I almost cried when I read this. As most of you know, I've had Labs for over 30 years. Sophie is number 9, and Bruce number 10. I've had many types of personalities, ones that would retriever until they dropped from exhaustion, to ones who would look at me with that "why in the hell do you keep throwing that damn thing" look. When I was younger, I thought you had to apply force and establish who was the boss. As I've grown older, I've mellowed from a strong type "A" personality.

      In regards to dealing with my dogs, I try to keep things as positive as possible, but there are times when you have to correct them. Sophie is very stubborn, but she has a really soft personality, I very seldom have to "correct" her with force, it's usually when she plants her nose to the ground smelling whatever. A good leash pop will correct the behavior. I can put a high value treat right under her nose, and she's oblivious. I even tried an E collar. He nose would hit the ground, I'd nick her, nothing. Continuous stim, nothing. And yes, I went through the collar conditioning process as recommended by members of this board and other high level trainers. I stopped using the E collar, as I basically felt I was torturing the dog for no good reason. Now, a quick leash pop with a prong collar corrects the behavior.

      Bruce has a couple bad habits. The biggest is jumping on my bed, and violating my pillow. While it's very humorous to watch, it's a very undesirable habit. I tell him once to leave it, if he does he gets a treat, if not, he gets an ear pinch. I put just enough pressure to let him know I'm there. I keep the pressure constant the whole time. It doesn't hurt him, but it let's him know I'm in control, and when he complies, the pressure goes away. It's really no different the using a choke collar or a prong to make a correction, when you release pressure when the desired behavior is achieved.

      I've come a long way over the past 30 years. I don't get worked up when things aren't going "right". There are things Bruce and Sophie do that 30 years ago would have driven me nuts, but now, I just laugh, and remember to do what I can to keep it fun for them. Having them be 100% proofed on every behavior is a ridiculous expectation.

      I almost wet myself laughing when I read this - (Hard core force trainers may be muttering, "You could proof for that. You'd just need some assistants...")

      On a side note, I just finished reading "Retriever Training, A Back to Basics Approach" by Robert Milner. A lot of good stuff. And I think he really hits the nail on the head in that modern field trials and tests have lead to training processes that have "forced" Labs to do things they really weren't bred for. A lot of the desirable traits Labs once had have been bred out, to create dogs who can take the pressure needed to win at high level competitions. Back in the day, Labs were always bred to be "eager to please". If that's the case you really shouldn't have to force them to work. I don't really think that's the case anymore.

    15. #10
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      I do believe that Janice Gunn's Lab is trained using a purely positive approach and no FF. He has his SH title and one leg toward his MH. She has other retrievers with field titles, but I think he's the only MH title so far. Her click and retrieve video is awesome and I highly recommend it! Granted, her dog has an amazing performance and field pedigree and she is a professional trainer. Point being, it is not impossible.

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