Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Shaping Class?

Four times this week the topic has come back to training enthusiasts needing to be better at breaking down behaviors into separate components.

Once you've trained a behavior, you often have one (or more) ideas on how to teach it to another dog.  Being able to take a behavior you haven't trained and break it down into the smallest parts is a separate skill.  Those I know who are best at this learned to be proficient through practice. Modifying plans they had been given, taking new behaviors and coming up with plans, and thinking through the many possible options for shaping any given behavior. 

How to teach someone that extra piece of skill is a separate challenge.  I've thought about doing a class or workshop...but most of those  I mentioned are too far away for that to be an option. I've thought about doing an online class....but I don't know if I could get people to commit.  On the to-do list is a website with specific activities for improving shaping.

Students in a pet class typically just need to be given efficient plans, it's the responsibility of the instructor to determine what is likely to be the fastest and most efficient training plan.  In competition classes, it's the same thing. The students want the best plans possible.   It mostly comes down to those who will spend a lot of time working on their own or those who are just training enthusiasts who really want to learn this sort of thing.   In reality, being able to efficiently break things down would allow anyone to do much better problem solving, on their own or in conjunction with a professional. It's much harder to create resources and classes with that angle compared to materials directly for an enthusiast.


Being able to break down behaviors has been a strong point for me for a very, very long time.  Two events, fairly recently, have allowed me to be even more proficient.

One is TAGteach.  I went to a seminar in 2008 and 2009.  It made me very excited about teaching and training.  And I was/am envious of the TAGTeach vocabulary that we don't have in training.  In TAG Teach there is discussion of the one point of instruction, the "Value Added Tag Point", that improves several aspects at once.  We don't have a word for that in animal training. I've put in more of an effort to find and utilize those in training.  There is a big focus on breaking behaviors down into separate points, that just seems more effective than how things are explained for the same concept in animal training.   

The other event was Morton and Cecilia's presentation at ClickerExpo in 2008. This inspired me to get Griffin. They broke down behaviors into just beautiful little parts. Separate and perfect before putting things together.  A high level of perfection.   But also, the way of breaking down behaviors was far more efficient than what I've typically seen.

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