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Thread: What IS formal obedience?

  1. #1
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    Default What IS formal obedience?

    Sounds like a dumb question... but the responses on a related thread got me to wondering.

    I've been studying Bill Hillman's stuff and it seems to me his demos begin when he's working with about a 10-11 week old puppy and they seamlessly progress all the way up to and through transition.

    So, for instance... do you define "formal" obedience as that stage of training when you insist on the pup doing the basic commands you've been teaching him since puppyhood? Or is it something that begins when he's a particular age? Or is it "formal" only in the since that it's "foundational" and precedes field work?

    Hillman's traffic cop routine essentially starts when the very young puppy is learning his first "sit" lessons... and there is never more than minimal (i.e., lowest perceptible stimulation level) pressure throughout. Were those "formal" obedience sessions?

    So maybe the question shouldn't be WHEN to do formal OB, but WHAT IS "formal" OB.

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    Senior Member T. Mac's Avatar
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    Dang girl, this is an easy one!

    "Formal" is when you wear your best bib and tucker


    Seriously, in my book formal training or formal obedience is not so much the training of the dog (hopefully a puppy) how to learn which is usually (hopefully) started with the breeder. It is the process of getting the pup to listen to the handler and respond to their commands. Normally the first word the pup learns is "no" which they learn to mean they should stop whatever they are doing as it does not please the handler. The next thing that a pup usually learns is that when they do good and the handler is happy then the handler is good to them, either in the form of treats or praise or other positive reinforcement. In my opinion this is where many novice handlers fail their pups, not giving them enough praise or positive reinforcement. The goal here is that they couple the reward to their compliance in executing the command given and not that they will be rewarded for doing just anything. You will see this a lot when you first start your formal training where the pup will go through its list of actions that had previously earned them a reward hoping that one of the actions is right and gets them further rewards. Hence the learning to listen and distinguish the commands and associate them with a particular action.
    .

    T. Mac
    Last edited by T. Mac; 11-29-2013 at 11:46 PM.

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    Senior Member Wayne Nutt's Avatar
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    With a personal dog it is sometimes hard to say when formal ob begins. But I think it is when you start using both positive and negative in enforcing commands.
    When training professionally it was when a client brought a dog to me.
    Wayne Nutt
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    Senior Member T-Pines's Avatar
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    Almost 3 years ago, I started studying and practicing Hillmann's complete program on my five dogs, from Puppy through Fundamentals. Let me pose your question to the dogs and I'll get back to you.

    Please don't take me for a smartazz. Just a little tongue in cheek to make the point that terminology means nothing to your dogs. Train your dogs according to your program. You'll notice that Hillmann does not use much terminology in his material. You said it yourself ... his process is seamless ... words that describe a definitive and distinct change in the way that you interact with your dog do not apply with Hillmann's program.

    With Hillmann, I consider any training session that resembles Bill's work on his DVDs to be formal training. Time spent "hanging out" with your dog and enjoying each other's company is informal training.

    Jim

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    Senior Member Evan's Avatar
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    Is this a Hillman-specific question?

    Evan
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    Senior Member Mary Lynn Metras's Avatar
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    Starts right from day 1 you get your pup. Not sure what you mean by formal obedience. Obedience is obedience. Sit means sit. To get you and your pup off to a good start you teach then right away what it is all about, Makes it a whole lot easier on you. JMHO
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    Senior Member DarrinGreene's Avatar
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    It's the stage when you start using aversives to re-enforce behavior. When to start it depends on the temperament of the pup in question. In the pet practice I have had dogs that not only were tolerant, but IMHO needed formalization at 12 weeks of age (yes 12 weeks) and others where aversives put so much stress on the dog that they were never used (that dog would be washed out in most retriever applications).

    The only thing consistent about when to start, and this is a belief of mine as opposed to a rule, is that the dog needs to demonstrate proficiency in a given behavior using motivational methods before I will add anything aversive. The single exception to this being how to walk with a large dog that's out of control on the end of a leash. In those cases many time the use of a pinch collar is like magic to the client.
    Darrin Greene

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    Quote Originally Posted by T-Pines View Post
    Almost 3 years ago, I started studying and practicing Hillmann's complete program on my five dogs, from Puppy through Fundamentals. Let me pose your question to the dogs and I'll get back to you.

    Please don't take me for a smartazz. Just a little tongue in cheek to make the point that terminology means nothing to your dogs. Train your dogs according to your program. You'll notice that Hillmann does not use much terminology in his material. You said it yourself ... his process is seamless ... words that describe a definitive and distinct change in the way that you interact with your dog do not apply with Hillmann's program.



    With Hillmann, I consider any training session that resembles Bill's work on his DVDs to be formal training. Time spent "hanging out" with your dog and enjoying each other's company is informal training.

    Jim
    I agree. If you "hang" in the retriever training for say 20, 30, 40 or more years, you borrow different methods and incorporate them into what works. It is a semantics game. Rex Carr let his clients name the drills, he didn't have any particular name, just what had worked for him. Mike Lardy took it to a intellectual level, put a spin on it and we have basics, transition, advanced training. Nothing is original in his program, as he sometimes states, he gives credit to those who came before him, formal or modified to his program and so forth. Having been doing this for more then a few years as a amateur trainer of retrievers have used training that has worked for others and modified some of it to fit my training. It is not original. I will cite some examples, I call formal obedience training, AKC obedience, retriever obedience is modified AKC trials formal obedience (novice work if you must). Modified no stay command, no come command, a kinda loose leash off lead heeling, maybe two sided heeling, many don't teach down or stand for examination etc.
    So if I said I don't use AKC obedience training, it might raise eye brows. I have done a drill for many years , didn't really have a name for it it called it a split drill. I trained with Mary Hillman one summer and drew a diagram of it and she used it on Viking. I got the drill from a pro, who had got it from Rex Carr when she trained with him as a amateur. Heard a number of folks talk about a "W" drill and thought what the heck is a "W" drill. Saw a diagram and thought well this is the same drill I had been doing for 30 years modified, three bumpers and two long past the slot of the three, maybe using a indent on one. I would run three bumpers about 60 or 70 yards 30 paces apart in a line, then pace 15 through the slots on a double blind, for 200 or 300 yards, cuts down on flaring, gets drive/bottom (haha) past the three shorter blinds without breaking down. The point formal is whatever you want it to be, remember we are not making widgets, repairing machines or diagnosing things we are training retrievers. Kinda like various dialects, my Southern born dad used talk about closing the gap, hunkering down, coal oil , pin (PEN) . My UP of Michigan spouse talks about we go town eh and "how she goin", we have bubblers and water fountains, soda and pop.
    Just my thoughts on it lets just train our dogs and use descriptive methods when "formal" or what methods are you using can't be explained.
    Earl Dillow

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post
    Is this a Hillman-specific question?

    Evan
    It is and isn't. I'm buying/reading/watching all the information I can get my hands on. Spent as much on educating myself as I have the puppy who is FC on both dog and dam.

    Perhaps the question has evolved to be... as long as I don't actively screw the pup up, can I use a Chinese menu approach to training her? Like "I'll take one from column A and two from column B with white rice and fried wonton on the side." Practically speaking, depending upon the season and water and such, I may not have the resources to follow one system from soup to nuts (so to speak.)

    This means I'm hitting some vocabulary issues.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1tulip View Post
    It is and isn't. I'm buying/reading/watching all the information I can get my hands on. Spent as much on educating myself as I have the puppy who is FC on both dog and dam.

    Perhaps the question has evolved to be... as long as I don't actively screw the pup up, can I use a Chinese menu approach to training her? Like "I'll take one from column A and two from column B with white rice and fried wonton on the side." Practically speaking, depending upon the season and water and such, I may not have the resources to follow one system from soup to nuts (so to speak.)

    This means I'm hitting some vocabulary issues.
    To answer the part that I highlighted: You can but then you are inevitably going to run into the same problem that everyone else does when they try the "ala carte " method...They have a problem or get stuck and then they ask "How do I fix it"..well do you send them to the menu A or Menu B ?...When people try and mix and match methods its the same way, then they look for quick fix band aid approaches to solve a much bigger problem...

    I see it all the time, especially with the "internet trainer", they hear of a particular drill or technique that looks or sounds cool, they go and try that technique but abandon it quickly if they dont see immediate results or get immediate success and go off in search of the next big thing...
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