Defining Inspirational Dog Training . . .
I am sitting here watching a series of video clips that I put together of my puppy “Swagger.” Its clips of him working at a seminar over the weekend. I love my puppy, as I love my own dogs but as I watch video clips I tend to be critically; looking for what I could have done differently, how could have the message be made clearly, how could the dog’s performance inspired me just a little more.
I must admit, looking at these recent video clips even I was impressed. Don’t get me wrong, I do have my list of things I want to improve upon– but I think for a puppy that just turned 10 months old his performance was pretty darn cool.
Training here in “Do-Land,” where we don’t physically or verbally correct our dogs, where we don’t use treats or toys to “lure” our dogs I think has produced some amazing results in many dogs. I am not talking only about the national championships or world team placements, I mean impressively behaved family pets that turn into impressively trained performance dogs.
So then I started thinking; how do you evaluate this, by what yard stick would you use measure those results? Well it can’t just be by a dog “doing a required response” or “winning a specific trophy or title” because there are all kinds of methods that can get you those results — that is the beauty of dogs. They are often learning in spite of the methodology being used and not necessarily because of it! Where dog training is concerned in my opinon, the ends can never justify the means.
So I decided I would like to start a list of what to look at when deciding if the dog training you are getting is producing inspiring results for you. I am looking at the entire picture of the dog while working;
1. The quality of the dog’s response; can be judged by any number of criteria (most listed below); quickness, precision, attitude, does it have a “wow” factor etc.
2. The reliability of the response regardless of how far or near the trainer may be or how “excited” the dog may be by watching racing prey, birds in the field or wildlife underfoot.
3. The repeatability of response; will the dog repeat the behaviour each time he is asked as often as he is asked?
4. The quickness of response; the speed of response to cues when given and the speed of the actual behaviour (one cue performed as fast as possible).
5. The attitude or lack of stress in the dog response or body posture while working. I mean an obvious confidence while working and a lack of obvious and/or subtle signs of stress; star gazing, stress yawning, lip licking, scratching, sniffing or other appeasing responses.
6. The compliance of the dog — one cue give by the handler one speedy response given by the dog.
7. The focus of the dog — is he looking elsewhere for his reinforcement, is he sniffing, leaving work etc.
Can you think of any others to add to my list?
For me, the training approach at Say Yes Dog Training; the “Do-Land” approach is one I know is possible for everyone who has an open mind and a love of dogs. My approach is a very simple one that can be summed up in four basic steps;
1) I observe my dogs and evaluate “where is their value or joy” — what makes them happy, what do they love most of all.
2) I have a vision of how I want my dogs to behave around the house and how I want them to perform in the ring.
3) I then just transfer the value of number one into number two.
4) When I get what I want, I aim to consistently maintain it throughout the life of the dog. The clarity of your application of your own imposed guidelines are critical to your dog’s long time success.
Simple eh? But as Bob Bailey says dog training is simple but not always easy. So let me share the series of video clips that inspired this blog post.
These results come from a consistent application of the three steps above. Any of you that are subscribers to Puppy Peaks have seen me repeat those four steps above over and over in every clip I post each week about Swagger’s training. I am sure the results shown in video above comes as little surprise to any of you (other than Swagger is a few months older now that he is in Puppy Peaks:)) because you have seen Swagger’s responses evolve each week. Every struggle I posted and my approach to overcoming it is what has brought us to the place this video represents, one that very well could possibly be inspiring results for a puppy that has just turned 10 months old! I know Swagger and I have a very long way to go but I think he is quickly approaching all of my above criteria. Don’t you think?
Today I am grateful for Swagger and all he is teaching me about dog training. Sigh . . . yes we are both still learning and it amazing me how much each dog I work with teaches me. I can’t believe all the discoveries and changes I have made in my training with Mr. Swag-man compared to what I did when his mother was this age just four short years ago!