Bark Busters - Negative Experience - your thoughts?

Silver

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#1
I've been lurking for about 6 months (since we got Angus), so I think this is my first post. And I think it'll be a doozy.

A brief introduction - I, a 29 y/o professional-to-be, and my girlfriend (common law spouse...whatever you want to call it), got our first puppy on the Thanksgiving weekend last year (that's Canadian T/G, so October) when he was 9 weeks old. Angus is a purebred Chocolate Labrador Retriever from excellent stock and a reputable breeder. He is a field / American lab and is very handsome. He is just over 8 months old now.

We did a lot of research when we got him about all sorts of basic housetraining and general puppy development. We also went to puppy/basic obedience classes starting from about 4 - 6 months. The trainer, a wonderful woman named Pam Murray - her company is Canine Spirit (www.caninespirit.com) who uses a holistic and positive reward based training method - was great, but we came away without any real concrete information to work with and a very stubborn but smart dog. This meant that what we learned in class kind of fell aside as we were trying to do it all from memory and intuition (her methods were quite instinctive - and I don't necessarily understand dogs well enough to know everything to put them into place properly).

Two months later, we were getting frustrated and decided to call the infamous Bark Busters, as a friend had had a very good experience with them. I wish that I could say the same.

The trainer arrived and went through the standard "all dogs are like this" routine with the whole pack animal thing that we all know so well. Fine, tell me something new. She then went on to talk about their methods being non-violent and that hands are only for praise and that the dog has to submit in order to see you as the leader of the pack and so on. All relatively valid points (although I'm not so sure about the last one - I'm not sure that conscious and clear submission is necessary to accept leadership from someone else).

The methods, as have been discussed in other threads, are based around using "the word" - "BAH" - as "no", in essence. Whenever the dog is doing something wrong, you "distract" him by saying BAH and then praise him for not doing it (i.e. counter surfing - one of our biggest problems). To have BAH gain effectiveness, they encourage using their "training pillows" to start, where you throw the little bag of chains at the dog's feet to make a loud noise and say BAH at the same time so that they associate the BAH with the "distraction." It is supposed to distract him so that he listens to you and "submits" and we are supposed to look for signs of submission through lip licking, turning his head to the side, etc (the same kind of stuff someone performing an alpha rollover looks for). After the distraction, you're supposed to pile on the praise for NOT doing whatever it was that you're distracting him from.

Right away, this bothers me. To me, the bag of chains is NOT a distraction, but something to generate fear and prevent "bad" behaviour. BAH is then associated with a fear response and so, my instinct tells me, the dog is then "fearful" of the word BAH and will thus not do what he's about to do in an effort to avoid the associated noise from the bag of chains. I might be humanizing or over analyzing, but that's my instinct. It simply changes the violence from physical to psychological.

My mind, however, was put at ease when she threw the training pillow, stamped her foot, and shouted BAH. Angus' response? Pick up the pillow, run away with it, and start chewing on it. He is, after all, genetically a hunting dog (his father is a master hunter). I'm pretty sure that a bit of noise isn't going to be enough to scare him into submitting. She was a bit shocked and tried to step it up a notch or two a few different ways. For example, she then tried "machine gunning" the BAH (saying it several times over and throwing multiple bags at his feet) and also tried making it louder by using a leash to "throw" the bag onto the floor. When that didn't work (he would just grab the bags and run away with his fancy new toy), she decided to kick up another notch by using raw chains thrown at his feet. This still didn't phase him or bring about any type of submission. Next step (and this is where it got to be WAY too much for me) - put him in the bathroom and whenever he tries to come out, throw the raw chain (meaning not the training pillow, but an actual chain) into a stainless steel bowl so that it's very loud and shout BAH. The trainer wasn't handling it well - "I've never seen a dog resist the raw chains before" - "I've never had a puppy so resilient" - etc. She just couldn't believe how much he resisted submitting to the ever so fearful BAH. :rolleyes: Further, she was getting pretty worked up herself - she was practically panting and was all red in the face. You could tell she was maybe a bit embarrassed by how well it wasn't working and that she probably didn't enjoy this process much either. It was "hard work" for her.

Eventually, after about 5 - 10 minutes of this (which seemed like an eternity), he submitted sufficiently for her (he sat down, looked away, had his ears down, licked his lips, etc) as he was trying to figure out what it was that he was supposed to do. The only reason that I didn't jump in and physically eject her from the apartment at this point was that he didn't show any signs of fear, per se. He wasn't cowering, his tail wasn't down, he wasn't jumping or shying away to speak of, and he didn't show any other signs that I'd normally associate with a fear response from him.

At that point, we progressed to a few other things where we were "setting him up" so that we would "win" various challenges - mostly surrounding "stealing." He likes to grab socks, hats, gloves, etc and run away with them. Pretty normal stuff. So we'd set him up to grab something and "BAH" him and use a regular training pillow. It was working reasonably well. But he's too smart. We'd put a sock in front of him and wait for him to move towards it and then BAH him to stop him. After a couple of times of that, he'd just sit there and either look at us or the sock, wondering what it was that we wanted from him. She (the trainer) was thrilled with the progress. Then, after we would stop paying attention to him, the little jerk would grab the sock and run away. :lol-sign: Oh man, he's awesome.

It went on to how he reacts to the door and then again, the training pillows weren't working, so she moved onto the spray bottle (with water) that accompanied the BAH. Obviously it's not hurting him, but I don't really see it as a positive method of learning, either.

Anyway, after a bit of that, he was tired and went to sleep and she said she'll come back next Sunday (this just happened this past Saturday).

The more I think about it, though, the less I want her to come back. I don't think that this is the most effective training method for my dog. I don't think that inciting his most primitive and instinctive fear response (nothing quite like cornering him in a bathroom with loud noises) is the way to have him respect and trust me. He might respect and fear me, but I don't think he'll respect and trust me. Why would he? There's no incentive. The whole methodology is based around negative reinforcement followed by praise for doing the right thing. It seems to be the reverse of what actually makes sense. Reward him for positive behaviour and distract him if he strays from that. It just FEELS wrong.

At the same time, I need something concrete that I can work from. I need paper and principles and methodology physically demonstrated to me (like they provide) that I can then refer to so that I can put it into practice consistently. That was the one drawback from his earlier training. Also, I felt like the other training was just eliciting appropriate behaviour so that he would get the reward. When the reward was not forthcoming, he'd just go back to being a poophead. It's a bit of a dilemma. He's an intelligent dog and he's definitely stubborn and strong willed. He will probably require some very diligent and experienced training to really turn into the dog that I want (I'm hoping for a dog that is very well behaved and looks to me for everything - an off-leash wonder dog, basically).

The biggest problem? My gf wants to see it through with Bark Busters. She felt like it was working and that he was listening, but mostly, she's just happy to have that concrete training plan.

In my mind, what good is a concrete training plan if you don't agree with the philosophy behind it? I think she thinks that I'm too much of a softy in this regard, but I didn't like the methods. In short, we're at odds. We haven't yet paid the $450 fee (yes, $450 :yikes:) and I don't think I want to. I'll happily pay the trainer for her three hours of time for Saturday and mentally boot her in the butt on the way out the door. GF wants her to come back on Sunday though.

If ANYONE read this - thanks. If not, it was at least cathartic to write it out. If it's a bit disjointed, it's because it's interrupted by work.

:popcorn:
 

Dekka

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#2
First off I love you dog!! What a good solid temperment he must have.

I don't know of any people who 'know' dogs that like BB. Its funny they always have booths at the big agility trials and such, and no one ever goes over and talks to them. It is based on fear. Personally I don't want my dog to fear me, I want my dog to trust me. To put it in prespective, how would you feel about treating a human 2 year old this way?

A dog is an amoral creature (same as a 2 year old child) and has similar intelligence. (forgetting the child vs animal thing) how well do you think it would work? I would be worried about what this would do to your relationship with your dog.

Get your gf the book Culture Clash.. its a 'staple' and is a good and interesting read that is suitable for new to training people, and trainers alike.
 

adojrts

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#3
Shoot the trainer from Bark Busters.........useless to say the least. Gezz they have such a terrible rep. for understandable reasons.
I look at the site you posted from your first trainer...........the website looks awesome with the info she has posted. Have you contacted her and let her know that you didn't retain what was taught?
If I had to choose between the two trainers, I would go back to the first one and voice my concerns. Let her know you need more hand outs, also you can also take a note book (recommended btw for all training/classes). If you and your GF are going to the classes, one works with the pup and the other takes notes is a good plan as well.
Or better yet, ask if you can video tape your classes.
Please keep in mind, that dogs/pups and/or their owners can struggle through one level of classes and may have to repeat the course. But having said that, at other levels they are the Stars of the class. It isn't a failure, it is just fact that everyone including our dogs/pups have different learning curves.
You should also consider semi privates or privates from someone other than the BB trainer/s.
I am a little surprised at the 3 hours time frame of the BB trainer, do they actually think they can train any dog/pup for that long? Or is there a lot of theory as well, without working with the pup?
In my opinion, throwing chains, even if you give it a cute name like a 'pillow' at a dog/pup isn't dog training and it isn't surprising that she was unable to get the job done. Plus if someone did that to one of my dogs, after they got kicked out of my place their next stop would be at the hospital to have that 'pillow' removed from you know where........:lol-sign:

Good luck
Lynn
 

adojrts

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#4
LMAO

I just took the Bark Busters quiz on my dog Petie, this is his results.

Your dog's score : 177

175 - 194 = B
Dogs in this category are typically wonderful family dogs with a few rough edges. This dog could easily move to the "A" grade with some training.

He is a B dog because he digs in the yard.............I allow that because its his yard and he is JRT.
He is a B dog because, he barks when someone comes to the door...........
of course he barks, but he stops when asked to.
He is a B dog because he sometimes is reactive (my word not theirs) to other dogs.
And he does go out doors or walk/run in front of me, but he doesn't if I don't want him to.

I HIGHLY doubt they could help me with my training and turn him to what they consider to be a A dog. :)
 

Silver

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#5
Thanks for your thoughts Dekka. I've already started searching for a copy of the Culture Clash. I'm hoping to get something positive out of it.

For pictures of our little devil, please enjoy the following:




 

jess2416

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#7
Oh he is adorable :D :D

LMAO

I just took the Bark Busters quiz on my dog Petie, this is his results.

Your dog's score : 177

175 - 194 = B
Dogs in this category are typically wonderful family dogs with a few rough edges. This dog could easily move to the "A" grade with some training.

ETA: you know whats funny...

I took the quiz.. and Chloe scored a 49 and is also a B

28 - 50 = B Dogs in this category are typically wonderful family dogs with a few rough edges. This dog could easily move to the "A" grade with some training.
 

Silver

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#8
Lynn, thank you for your thoughts as well.

I think I'm leaning towards that as well. I really liked a lot of things about our previous trainer and I believe that I want to pursue that route.

A few more for good measure:



 

adojrts

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Oh he is adorable :D :D




ETA: you know whats funny...

I took the quiz.. and Chloe scored a 49 and is also a B

28 - 50 = B Dogs in this category are typically wonderful family dogs with a few rough edges. This dog could easily move to the "A" grade with some training.
That is too funny.
Anyways, have to run, going down to the arena tonight to work on some gamble skills with my B dog lol.
 

Zoom

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#13
Thank you for giving such an excellent illustration as to why I thoroughly DISLIKE BarkBusters! They're a big thing around here for some reason, even though every dog I've ever met that has gone through their "training" has been one of the most ill-behaved dogs ever.

At least one good thing came out of this...you know you're dog is bomb-proof!! Congrats on getting such a solid temperment!

In addition to getting Culture Clash, also look up "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell and have you and your wife look around the training forum here. :)

Welcome!
 

Silver

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#14
At least one good thing came out of this...you know you're dog is bomb-proof!! Congrats on getting such a solid temperment!
Thanks! Now if we can just get him to stop barking at the neighbours every time they come home!

Oh well, if he can't be well behaved, at least he's pretty! Thanks for the compliments everyone (on his behalf, of course!)
 

Dekka

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#16
I just took the Quiz. Dekka Failed, and I consider her an ideal pet. She walks in front of me when loose leash walking, but thats cause I trained her too (we have an obed heel too, but that is strictly for work) She barks at the door, but living out in the country and often being alone with my son, I love the fact that they all bark till told thats enough. Dekka has a small bladder, and if I am not paying attention she has accidents. All these things (and more) made her fail, but don't make her a bad dog. Actually I think all my JRTs would fail....
 

~Tucker&Me~

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#17
While these dogs need training, frequently they don't receive it because their annoying behaviors are "just not bad enough". It's unfortunate because "C" dogs can improve quickly and bring great joy and happiness to families. And, with training, the owner can be assured the behaviors will only get better -- not worse.

Dang, I should train Spy more so he can bring 'great joy and happiness' to the family, because according to BB he is lacking! :p

I love the questions:

1. Does he go up the stairs before you? (umm, sure, if he's walking in front of me...? lol)
2. Does your dog bark at people when they come to the front door?
(yes... Until I tell him to stop.)
3. Does your dog demand attention for petting or play? (well he'll ask, and if the answer is no than he knows to leave it at that.)

And btw, I'm from BC as well, so hello fellow BCer! :lol-sign:

~Tucker
 
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#18
Can I just say, Silver, your training instincts are really great. It sounds like you're coming from a behaviorial psychology background, which makes me happy to see. :)

I think that you would really enjoy clicker training. Instead of "BAH"ing your dog for bad behaviors, you're "Clicking" your dog for good behaviors. There's a lot of theory behind it that I think you'd also be inerested in learning about. In addition to the books suggested already, Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot the Dog" is a great one to start with for clicker training, it's probably one of the best animal training manuals out there. "The Power of Positive Dog Training" is also a good one.
 

Saje

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#20
No advice on the trainers but a bit HELLO from Surrey. :) And welcome to chaz. Your pup is GORGEOUS. And shiny. What are you feeding
 
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