Sunday, August 14, 2011

Is Dog Training "Too Hard"?

Sometimes at training group we talk about whether or not training is "too hard."   We struggle with parts of it.  Our dogs aren't perfect (except for Griffin....).   And how do we expect people to succeed when they don't want or need to know everything about training?

Sometimes I try to be nice and will give someone a training plan via some online source.   There are management steps ("So we don't accidently make the behavior stronger and so that we don't compromised/undo your training") , a few training exercises/steps to resolve the situation, and a few notes on what to do if something goes wrong and the unwanted behavior happens.   And 90% of the time I get told, thanks but no. The person either then does nothing or reverts to some punishment-based solution that they sometimes regret, and sometimes not.... but typically the problem is not truely resolved.

Sometimes my 'real life' students say something is very important and then they don't actually work on it.  I get busy. I don't always work with my dog like I should.   Despite that study I wrote about.... some things really do need practice at home and not just training class. Practice your greetings at the doors and on walks with real people.  A few repetitions in class is not enough for most dogs to generalize, no matter how great the training plan.     

But is it that they get busy?   Sometimes they can't tell me the steps or exercises.  On a few occasions there have been people who needed it written down and then they could practice. Some people need video so that they can see it.  It's just too many steps for others....and I have to really condense/simplify steps.

An Example:  A while back I had someone in class who had a hard time remembering multiple steps to any exercise, even if we back chained it, even if he was doing it well, she didn't know -what- he was doing.  So we simplified and relied more on classical conditioning for a few weeks.  "Call dog, drop treats between feet" were our early recall training repetitions.  Once that had been practiced quite a bit....   we only dropped treats after the dog came.  Because the dog was going to come after that huge history of reinforcement.

Dog training is hard. There are a lot of pieces to it. Ways to refine the training. Be more efficient and effective.  I probably need to be simplifying even more than I typically am... that said, it's interesting to me how many people do want to know more and are eager for more details and a better understanding.  Then again, we're so attached to our dogs that I shouldn't be surprised.

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