November 20, 2015
What qualities make a good trainer? We’ve all seen someone who makes training a dog look simple and effortless. What is it about these trainers that sets them apart?
- Good trainers reinforce correct responses rather than punish incorrect ones.
- Good trainers raise criteria gradually.
- Good trainers split behaviour into tiny slices instead of trying to teach large complex lumps.
- Good trainers learn to observe what the dogs are doing and how they are responding.
- Good trainers are prepared to go back a step or two if the dog is not succeeding.
- Good trainers keep their rate of reinforcement high in the early stages of learning and are careful about the timing of their responses.
- Good trainers consistently give the dog feedback.
- Good trainers know that undesirable behaviour only happens because it has, in some way been reinforced, either inadvertently by themselves or members of their families, or by something in the dog’s environment.
November 11, 2015
If your dog is not doing well in training or competition at the moment and nothing you seem to do works, then the safest route is to go back to basic foundation work.
Always remember that any retrieve from single marked retrieves to multiple memory retrieves to blind retrieves or a combination of all these can be broken down to a few very important basic skills. These are, in a nutshell:
- Accurate marking and memory.
- Delivery to hand.
- Whistle sit at a distance.
- Basic handling – taking a line, overs and backs.
All these basic skills, taken individually, can be worked on either in your home, garden or dog park for the odd 15 or 20 minute session during the week to become fluent. Unless they are executed flawlessly in a non-distracting environment expecting your dog to achieve the same results in an exciting environment is an exercise in futility. Spending hours on a Saturday or Sunday travelling to a venue with suitable terrain for our retrieving games and going over and over things that your dog is at best not achieving in a reasonably distracting environment is not a teaching exercise.
Ensure that your dog really, really understands the basic behaviours and concepts you have taught her in a non distracting environment before testing in a distracting environment. If this does not happen, there’s a very real danger that as the behaviours become more difficult you might get into REAL trouble because your dog didn’t, in fact, understand what you were doing in the first place. One way to be sure that your dog has understood what you require is to only make the behaviour more difficult (adding distractions or duration) when you can successfully get 9 out of 10 correct responses.
It’s worth thinking about this… One incorrect response is a mistake, two mistakes in a row, or close to each other, is a problem. Don’t fool around with it any more. Don’t keep letting your dog practise getting it wrong. Go back a step or two and build proficiency from there.