Monday, January 09, 2012

Life is about timing ...

so says Carl Lewis (with 10 Olympic medals to his name who am I to argue?)

Dog training is surely about timing too. The impact of reward, punishment (if you use it) No Reward Markers (if you use them) and cues are all profoundly affected by timing.

Tom had the big dawgs out for a road walk yesterday and I wanted to play with shaping. I had nothing in mind but a happy Thea and Brody were staring at me.  I played some tug with Thea which she loved and then started shaping Brody to "go to bed". We had a friend over watching and she was fascinated by the process of shaping. She didn't understand why there was no cue. (I didn't understand how Brody has lived with us nearly 11 years and had never been taught this- it's a great great foundation behaviour).

Sally has "go to..." down to a fine art ..even when she doesn't quite fit!

I was very quickly able to get a down on the bed as Brody has done a fair bit of shaping and was very quick to understand what was paying. He had a couple of typical, for him at least, gap out moments where he stood and stared at me or sniffed the floor but I didn't fall for it. I held out for a down on the bed and sure enough I got it. Going backwards in marking behaviour (which I would have been doing if I had marked him looking at the bed after he was already getting on it) is so tempting but ultimately slows things way down. The Training Marketing Queen of Canada (TMQ?) , Susan Garret has an expression: "average or better".
I'd heard of her before but this book hooked me
The fact Sally was doing her thing as I read it probably helped
TMQ - thank you!

It's a great phrase and one that is influencing my day to day work with the dogs. Why reward something that is regressive in nature? If your timing is average or better - don't do it! Hold out and then pay well for excellence. I have always thought there was value in meritocracy, at least ideologically if not practically. Dog training is a great place to practice this principle. (So is my day job actually!)

It's pretty hard for any of us to ignore Thea


Sara said...

Great advice!

La complice de Jasmine / Jasmine's Partner In Crime said...

My great fault in agility training is rewarding the wrong behaviour or regressive behaviour. Sigh. Let's hope practice makes perfect.