Thursday, May 30, 2013

Two brains are better than one ....

How lucky are those of us who get to play with animal team mates?


Not only do we get to learn lots about ourselves as we work on new skills and behaviours, we also learn about how our animal partners think, learn and react.

If you are lucky enough to play with multiple animals you also get regular reminders of how unique and different each is. If you play with varied species even BETTER!

Quirk the pony scents very differently to the dogs. She is more thoughtful yet more sure in some ways. Some dogs will check check check then confirm, Quirk goes to source and holds there. I keep ascribing it to prey versus predator but I am not really convinced that is the root.  If I ever come up with another theory I'll let you know!

Have started some agility games on the lawn with the dogs. As always I think oh I will work X then whoever wasn't on the list gets all sad and wishing they were playing and I end up working the set a little. Some observations from our first week:

Yen is fast
Sally has trouble staying in the poles when the grass is past her elbows
Yen had better forget the trick of running along tunnel tops very soon
Brody may not see or hear all that well but he loves jump work
Thea is loud and bossy when she knows her plan and it wasn't my plan
Yen is fast

I love agility

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

the power of positive ...

I was looking at the mandate,mission statement, etc of the Pet Professional Guild the other day. Lots of really great stuff in there. It got me thinking. My life with dogs horses and people have continually reinforced the power of positive. Learners rarely, if ever, make mistakes out of spite, a desire to "get you", or because they want to be wrong.

Mistakes get made. Much more frequently than recognized  playing working with animals most of the mistakes are human in nature. In human teaching the same is true though perhaps even less discussed. If a class of 14 year olds is over exhausted or over excited it is probably not a great time to introduce a new concept - far better to review and reinforce something most students are close to understanding.  (Same holds true in animal land but somehow seems easier for one handler to adapt for one animal- though I have watched drilling that was planned and therefore "had to be done" even though it wasn't likely the best/smartest move.)

Two key components I believe any educator, handler, or trainer truly trying to be positive, in any setting with any species needs to embrace, beyond the guiding principles of groups like the Guild, are  be FLEXIBLE and PATIENT.

Flexible captures the need to be able to adapt to the learner in front of you.We are all individuals after all! Being flexible means planning (you have to have something to adapt) but being able to asses, regroup and change things as needed. When something works well not presuming that is the only way to do it, or that method will work as well in all situations. Flexiblity also implies an ability to stretch - adding more things to a toolbox as needed; pushing yourself for more; delving into subjects wholly. Considering the person/dog equation and work in a framework that is comfortable while pushing boundaries. If expectations are too high and you are getting frustrated work with a trainer or training buddy. Note the things that are positive- often if there is frustration you may not even realize there are things going well. If things are stagnating work with a trainer/training buddy - challenge yourselves, change things up. Balance is a key component to  flexibility.

Patience really is a virtue in education and training. It's a tough one to internalize but so critical to being able to enjoy the journey. Without a patient attitude I cannot understand how playing training can be any fun. Patience allows ongoing assessment that is honest and critical of where you are and where you should be aiming next. If you need to regroup and step back with patience you will be able to see it's part of the journey. Without it you may be disappointed or angry about a perceived set back.