Saturday, December 13, 2008

reflections on practise and training

I am not a dog trainer - no siree Bob not a training bone in my body
however it seems I spend a LOT of time dispensing training, and training advise

I think about behaviours and how to modify them for dogs and cats, occasionally parrots and rabbits and in my day job I get paid to "train" teenagers ..

and none of it feels like training to me - I facilitate, I demonstrate, I discuss, I rehearse and I apply knowledge and skills...

it's just as true in agility as anywhere

I need to know my audience even within the dogs I work regularly (or semi regularly as the week may unfold) they need different approaches and have since the day they began agility. All my dogs have been shaped to do the various obstacles - though one "trainer" tried to lure Thea on a dog walk - that still causes me issues some days ...
Brody would have been lured too if he had needed to be lured but he went with me from the first time he saw an obstacle - I guess he was sort of lured through weaves to start - and GEEZ no shock here - weaves can be our downfall some trials!

The degree of work each dog can take seems to vary an incedible amount too.

Brody just does stuff - even early on I was careful not to run back to back in class more than once (as we were often the smallest dog in class I'd do it once then be asked to repeat so we didn't have to change heights). If he had a blip with something I just kept going - had I stopped to "WORK" on the "problem" Brody would have checked out without a doubt. Now that he knows what he is doing I can try a line a bunch of times in a bunch of ways as long as there is no implication he got anything wrong.. He knows it's all my fault if things go south...

Thea needs to do things until she's confident .. if she does it once but not well and then goes away she'll worry about the error until it becomes HUGE .. but push her past her comfort point and she'll slip away to her crate
everything needs to be planned with her - winging it is not her style at all ...

Sally just goes and goes - she'll repeat something 50 times just because she can .. for example she did 12 weaves this fall (that were on the lawn for Brody to work) I laughed at her blasting through them so she turned around and did them again (and again) with no cue and no support. When we started working her as a little puppy I told my trainer that I was worried about nose touches - as there was no cue for her to lift her head off .. she laughed at me and said that would NOT be a problem .. that Christmas Sally STUCK to the nose touch plate at the bottom of the stairs so hard I had to actually pick her up to break the touch - then I taught her a release for that behaviour. Sally has been wholly shaped so offering behaviours comes very naturally to her. If it pays she repeats and repeats. She is a much more independant thinker than either Brody or Thea as well - which is both a blessing and curse. I think I could see her shut down if she was DRILLED without joy but working with her brings me such joy I can't imagine that happening any time soon.

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