Our Training Philosophy
Every schutzhund club has its own personality and though they might not tell you, their own philosophy about dog training. Some clubs are geared to working at the highest levels of competition performance with "hard" dogs. They are little interested in the average Sunday afternoon sport fan with his or her pet dog or in the conformation aspects of their breed. This will be reflected in the training methods they use. Our club is dedicated to the Golden Mean. We are interested in promoting the Total German Shepherd Dog in all aspects, including its conformation. Our breed's founder, Captain Max von Stephanitz, set out to create a dog that was an "all-rounder", a dog that could do anything well and not just one thing extremely well. Stephanitz also insisted the German Shepherd Dog was to be a household companion and loyal to its family.
Schutzhund as we know it today is a sport but it did not begin this way. Rather, its use was as a breed tool. Its purpose was to insure that all stock suitable for breeding had intelligence and working ability. But over time, Schutzhund became a sport (and as of 2012 the titles awared are known as IPO--International Prüfungs Ordnung or International Examination Rules) and like other sports required more and more extreme performance for success at the highest levels. Success at the highest levels now requires one to virtually become a professional and to seek training from individuals who make their living by training dogs. Our club is not aimed at such individuals but primarily exists for the average enthusiast who wishes to title and show his or her companion, a pet dog kept in its owner's house.
Dog training is not mathematics, it is an art and not a science. While this might seem obvious to someone who has not been actively involved in training, there are plenty of dog trainers who will tell you that "this is the only way it's done". We believe, however, that there are many ways to train a dog. Not all work equally well all of the time or for all dogs. Thus the more ways one knows how to train and the more one can remain open-minded, the greater the chance for success.
Having said this, the great divide in dog training is really between the advocates of compulsion (classical conditioning, negative reinforcement etc.) and those who solely advocate the use of positive motivation. The latter often take the moral high ground and preach about the ethics of forcing an animal to do something. The former often sneer at the latter as misguided Pollyannas. But both theories are grounded in behavioralism. So then, where do we stand with regard to the great divide.
We do not use compulsive methods in tracking regardless of what efficacy they might have. Rather our dogs are taught by means of positive motivation, using scent devices or food. In obedience we build on a foundation using positive motivation be it food, a ball or a tug toy and praise. However, anyone who tells you that positive motivation works all of the time is not telling the truth. When a dog well knows what it should be doing and doesn't do it, a brief, crisp, correction (a reminder not a punishment) is in order. This should be followed immediately by praise when the dog returns to its job. While its true that nature can be a hard teacher, this should not be an excuse to use force when it is not necessary, or to abuse our dogs. In protection, we only work young dogs in prey drive, leaving work in defense and fight drives until the dogs have become experienced and mature enough to comfortably work in these drives. Our training never loses sight of the fact that these are our companions and our friends. They are not merely pieces of equipment. We are their teachers, their guides and not slave drivers.
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