Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Theory and Practice

The role of academia and texts in dog training is to allow new trainers to stand on the shoulders of giants. Dog training must always be based upon the actual training of real live dogs, but saying "you will understand with more experience" is not an acceptable response from a mentor to an apprentice. The foundation of mentorship is to keep someone else from wasting time making the same mistakes you did so that they might surpass you in ability.

Counterpoint: The teacher appears when the student is ready. I am a young, idealistic and modern person with a bias to having access to unlimited knowledge at my whim, without qualification. You cannot own knowledge until you earn it, and being told facts is not the same as internalizing knowledge.

Friday, August 19, 2011

It Just Bugs Me

"If I offered my dog a treat for herding the cattle, she would look at me like I was crazy."

This is because positive reinforcement training is not about treats. It's about REINFORCEMENT. If giving your dog treats is not increasing behavior, treats are not a reinforcer.


If you want your dog to do things, you need to use reinforcement. Positive or negative, behavior comes from reinforcement. Think about how your training paradigm uses reinforcement, and you will instantly understand how to put it into practice better. Success builds on success. Even if you are using corrections, they are meaningless unless the dog can succeed at the task following the correction. The important part about the choke chain is not when it is tight, it is when it is LOOSE.

"Some dogs just need corrections."

What bothers me about this is not so much that dogs are being corrected, it's the implication that if you bolt away from the dog so that he flips over and is dragged five feet, the dog will now instantly respect you and all your training will go swimmingly from that point on for ever and ever until you ride off over the rainbow together on matching unicorns. I am not against dogs getting physical corrections, provided the correction is administered within a system that the dog understands. I am against training that doesn't do anything, that only addresses the behavior in the moment and not the behavior in the future.

Corrections are not ABOUT punishment. They ARE punishment, in the psychologist's use of the term ("don't do that"), but what makes a correction more than just punishment it that puts the dog back in correct action; the sit correction is a sharp jerk upwards because it will cause the dog to sit and thus be correct (this chain is an example of P+ -> R-, since the collar is tight when the dog is not sitting (P+) and loosens when the dog is sitting (R-)). A correction is punishment with information about how to receive reinforcement. It's the difference between a teacher marking the wrong answer in red, and marking the right answer in red.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Commands For Agility

BINGO - Release
GO - Drive forward on your path, taking any obstacle directly in your path
COME - Turn towards me and drive to my front
HERE - Move laterally towards me, taking an obstacle on my side if there is a choice
OUT - Move laterally away from me, taking an obstacle away from me if there is a choice
SWITCH - Change leads to curl towards me, rear cross
FLIP - Change leads to curl away from me

WALK IT - A-Frame, Dogwalk
TIP IT- Teeter
STICK IT - two on, two off
SPOT - Table with auto down
TUNNEL - Tunnel
CHUTE - Chute
WEAVE - Weave poles