Monday, February 15, 2010

Repetition. And More Repetition..and...More

Repetition is important. We know it's good to do our training sessions while only working on one skill. And we do a lot of repetitions. That's why my classes are now all formatted to allow a -lot- of work on one skill. This helps both the owner and the dog. I do let my students know that it's fun to do everything once or twice, and they should do that if they are having bad days or to show off for friends. But for good learning and good training...we just need a lot of repetitions. And we know short sessions are important too.

I'm in a "Learning, Memory, and Cognition" class. (Note: I am not properly citing information here...if you need sources, let me know... ) Repetition is -very- important. Like.. super important. It's so important and has been shown over and over and over again to be important for learning. The instructor, Dr. Alexander Petrov, says, "Practice usually is THE strongest determinant of the accuracy and longevity of memory."

There is still improvement after 10,000 responses. There is still improvement after 10 million responses. The greater the number of repetitions, the smaller the amount of improvement. But it's still happening. Practice results in structural changes in the shape of neurons. The more you practice, the stronger these changes and connections. There is a point where improvement is next to 0 and there's a limit to physical ability to respond.

"Distributed" practice, practicing a task less often, such as once a day, is way more effective than spending a lot of time at once practicing. But even practicing every minute is better than doing it all at once. Distributed practice! This doesn't mean only one rep..different studies have set it up different ways... in a study with post office workers learning to use a keyboard sorting device, a group practice one hour a day for three months, group two practiced two hours a day for a month and group 3 had four hours of practice for a month. Who acheived the criterion strokes/minute in fewest hours? The one hour a day group.

And note, this isn't just for your dog. This is for you too. I'm off to practice my training skills...

What? Me? Practicing? Why do so many find that surprising? When Blaze was young, very troublesome, and I had way more time, I did spend a ton of timing training him. Hours a day! For years! But over the last 5-6 years...I've become good at training and it takes less time to teach new skills. I understand the process better and it's a little less new and exciting. I have so much to do and spend so much time teaching that I'm not always so motivated to work my dogs by the time I get home. Megan laughs at me for all this. But this -is- posing a problem in having my dogs prepared for competition. And it is posing a problem for advancing my training skills.

This week, I'll be attempting to post videos all my training sessions for this week's Go Click Challenge online. Video is great for evaluating the progress of your dog...but also your training skills.

NOW off to train.....

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