What word do you believe is synonymous with the word criteria? I want you to pause for a moment right now and think of the first word that pops into your mind when you think of the word “criteria.” Don’t read on until you have that word. Say it out loud when you hear the word Criteria what does it mean to you? Do you have the word?
If you are like most people the word you would come up with is the word “rules.” Criteria equals rules. It is what govern the expectations we set in place for our dogs. Criteria for a start line, criteria for a contact position, criteria for the execution of weave poles, criteria when meeting guests at the front door . . . the list goes on.
Of course criteria must equal rules. Doesn’t it?
So right now, before reading further get a mental snapshot of how you think about your dog when you are thinking of his criteria for any behaviour. Lets take a behaviour you are struggling with right now. Something that maybe is frustrating you in training or competition. Maybe it is a down on the table or a nose touch at the end of the contacts in competition or a straight front in obedience. Think of your dog, that behaviour and the word criteria (or rules).
Try to take a body scan of how you feel with that specific combination of thoughts. The mental image of your dog, THAT behaviour and the word criteria (rules).
Now how does all of that change for you if was to suggest we change the meaning of the word criteria from “rules” to the word “joy”. Rather than working to teach our dogs to “maintain our criteria for a behaviour” what if we changed it to “how can we help our dogs find the joy in the work we want them to do?”
Criteria = Joy.
Take the example of a dog at the start line in agility. You have been frustrated by his lack of self control or his inability to stay where you want him to stay. You may have angrily stomped him off and given multiple time outs or physical corrections for his naughtiness.
THIS dog is not meeting your criteria, or THIS dog isn’t living by YOUR rules at the start line. Now lets make that mind shift and rather than it being about the dog, lets make it about you.
Have you showed this dog how to find the joy in his job at the start line?
See how thinking of criteria as joy completely changes your mindset in training? It takes away responsibility from the dog living up to your expectations and puts the responsibility on us as trainers to create motivation and desire in our dogs to do what we want, how we want and when we want.
Anything your dog has pure joy for he never has to be nagged, reminded or corrected for does he?
He will do it and he won’t disappoint us if we can help just him to find his joy.
I think that could be my new job description; Susan Garrett, Keeper of the Joy. Sounds much better than plain old dog trainer does it?
Today I am grateful for Encore and Feature who had such a terrific weekend of agility. Even though they have had very little training over the past six months. They inspired this blog by demonstrating their joy to me.
Thanks for sending this blog, Susan. Everthing I read or watch about you inspires me to be a better dog trainer. I have a GSD who has issues with dogs we see at the park as we walk and train every day. I can see now I need to change her mind and help her find the motivation and joy in using impulse control when situations arise that make her anxious. We will continue to work on this in our journey together.
Please keep sending these messages. They are much appreciated.
Criteria = Standard
I love this idea. “Show your dog how to find the joy in his job.” It gives me, as a trainer, a more joyful outlook on the job to do as well. 🙂
The word I first thought of was clear so thinking like consistant….I want to have the clearest understanding possible.
I can see how being clear / consistant does equal joy as it IS FUN when everything works out as everyone knows what is expected how things work in unity and it all makes sense…..
Now when something isn’t clear it isn’t so fun.
After reading the blog I tried something at my work – I am responsible for new training and testing new things so I thought let’s give them an outline, with expectations but keep things vague how do you think the group responded OMG they were ready to eat me alive!
The second exercise was approached differently, things had more structure, we worked through some samples and in a way proofed what we were looking to accomplish before setting them out to work through and test….much different results it was amazing to see and you can imagine the folks smiles when they knew what they were doing and what was expected.
Thanks for the post, it helped me think outside the box and while away from home still work on my training just not with the dogs!
What a great post. I am guilty of letting the rules slip during agility in order to keep the joy in it for my setter. We are also working on field training, and in that game-a slip of the criteria (rules) could mean a shot dog. So now criteria for a safety point of view-does need to equal joy. It has to be more fun to watch a bird flush, then to be chasing after it. Now I need to bring the joy value of criteria back to our agility and obedience training.
Such a great message that *many* need to hear!! I don’t have a lot of exposure to agility trials, but I watched one of your Cynosport runs and several dogs that ran before you. The camera was right on the start line. I was dismayed by all of the “mean parenting” going on….lie down! lie down! liiiiiieee dooooowwwnnnn!!!!! stay! staaaaaaaayyyyy!!! It reminded me of your “bad dog trainer” video! These people need to hear your message, too. I hope some of them do. Thanks for sharing, Susan!
My 3-yr-old Cairn boy’s latest “game” in trial situations has been jumping on and off the table. At last weekend’s event, on his 2d time back on (and looking set to jump off again), the judge gave her count in triple time so we could move on! I think she understands the joy of doing agility–and made me feel it, too. She reinforced that we’re out there to have fun. A lot of handlers have lost the joy and need to reintroduce it to their agility runs so their dogs will not lose it, too. Thank you, Susan, for helping me in my journey with my Cairnkid.
Criteria = goals. Criteria is something that I am working toward, so that is a goal. Criteria can also mean objectives. I am a teacher by profession, therefore desired skills should be written and thought of in a postive manner.
Thanks for sharing all your knowledge, experiences, and wonderful insight. So much can be learned just by reading your blogs. I am enrolled in the Recaller’s class, and my dogs “Love, Love, Love” the games, not to mention the great benefits of playing them with them.
Criteria = reasons
Thank you Susan! What a change in mindset! This can help me so much with our new cocker. I thought standards with criteria. Joy makes more sense
Despite trying to be “neutral” in my corrections, the word “criteria” in my mind is equal rules and break it remained associated with a (-) punishment (operant conditioning).
Thanks because your point of view about the word criteria = JOY, will give to us (my dogs and myself) that we realy want “play together” 😉
Keeper of the Joy ;-).Great post¡¡¡
Criteria = Vision
I first have to visualize the performance before I can train the performance. Know what it looks like in the end and work towards creating that vision.
To be honest, the word criteria has always scared me a little and the next best thing I could come up with was ‘performance’. So what if my dog doesn’t ‘perform’ as I had planned for that session? I am human and what happens next is: I’m frustrated, irritated, disappointed, I think I’m a failure, too stupid to train my dog. All negative emotions. Of course my dog feels that right away (he is a dog!) and is not as eager to train with me anymore, right? Although I know all that it happens over and over again! And then training feels like one step forward, two steps back and we don’t get anywhere.
So, your blog changed that all for me!!!! I don’t need to be scared by the word criteria anymore because I’ll replace it with joy starting today! Let’s see how things will change and enjoy! Thank you, Susan for this brilliant inspiration!
The word I thought of was ingredients. My primary training discipline germinates from retriever field training, however,I have thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to training and competing in agility. I have a retriever with “over-kill” drive in the field. My goal has been to work with that drive, harnessing my dog’s passion, excitement, and trembling from tip of nose to tip of tail zeal into a team player that honors my leadership. Thank you for this timely reminder.
Criteria = Success
How can I change my criteria to make sure my dog succeeds at what we are working at. Sometimes we need to lower our criteria to get a success but when we get one, its pure joy! Great post!
Thank you. I just got “Crate Games” and started to play with my mixed breed JRT rescue dog (who reminds me very much of Decaf). Part way through stage 1, he became very frightened to the point where he was sitting at the back of the crate trembling. Would not re-enter the crate, and ended up sitting under the dining room table looking at me. Not a good start.
Reading your post, I realized that as a new trainer, I may be placing more value on my expectations and my performance rather than what Milo is feeling. Unless Milo is feeling as good or better about his performance than I am, then I have a responsibility to make that happen. So, for me, criteria means “responsibility”. The dog has a responsibility to meet the criteria, and I have a responsibility to see that he feels great about it. Only then can we become a team.
So we will go back to the crate games and build value in baby steps, making sure that Milo is enjoying every step of the way. In the meantime, I am learning far more than he is.
My word was “communicate.” How can I communicate what behavior I want from my dog? And how can we make it his choice, his game?
The word I thought of was ‘details’ but I will definitely be going with joy from now on. Thanks Susan for yet again inspiring me!! x x
The first word”s” that came into my head was “setting expectations!”.
Its so simple its just perfect!
Just like the 2×2 weaves which my dog loves!! and so do I.
Criteria = Black & White
yep two words, but for the life of me i couldn’t come up with one word and this is what was in my head…
My word was “watch” because criteria is/are useless concept if you’re not observing your dog!
This comes down to a performance cue for me, such as the important “Keep your eye on your dog”.(how many times will it take before I learn this the hard way!!!)
LEVEL: My word was level. The Level of expectation. What I wanted from my dogs.
I have gained much and so have they. Yet I see that we really do still have a long way to go. My 2 dogs have done well over the months but there is lots of room for improvement with one of them. Especially regarding greeting people at the gate. Not sure which is more difficult? Teaching the dogs or the Humans.!
Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity to be doing this course.
Great post. My word was “standard”., something that I can measure, but without JOY what is the point? My dogs all love the recallers games and I have learnt to put the joy into their training. My neighbours think I am the nutty dog lady, after whooping it up in the front yard with each of my 5 dogs doing PB&J or Smoke ya!. Great JOY!!! Thanks Susan.
Word, what word?
Fun? How can I make the training fun – for me and the dog. Cos if I know she’s having fun she’s more likely to want to hang with me.
Susan helps me and I try to help others who are stuck in the “don’t” criteria instead of the “do” criteria for their dogs.
Don’t dig the garden -> Do dig your sandpit.
Don’t bark all day -> Do sleep all day
Don’t jump on everybody/dog -> do sit & drop and wait patiently (self control).
Don’t pull -> do walk with me
So… criteria should be used as a pre/post assesment guide in additon to how to structure a training session(s) in order to keep things
realistic/in perspective on the way to accomplishing the intended “goal(s)”.
e.g. when to take a step back, when to take a step forward, or re-evaluate the situation.
Susan – this was great 🙂 graps the very essence of all that I have learned from you over the years!
When I closed my eyes before reading any further I thought
Criteria = Team Vision
You can still, obey ALL the rules, but still not meet ANY of the croiteria.
Ah, but one can also meet the criteria but not obey all the rules (assuming meeting the criteria isn’t in the list of rules).
Criterion is really a point — an important point. Usually it is a minimum level of performance/symptoms/knowledge to be considered to qualify for you for something whether that is to get a job, a pension, a qualification or a gold star.
In training the criterion is the behaviour that we have decided will be rewarded in THAT training session.
At school the criterion for ‘passing’ an exam is, usually, getting 50% or more of the total marks attainable. For entry to University the criterion is to have attained passing grades in a Matriculation examination, which some subjects might require a passing grade in a particular subject at matriculation level.
I’m sorry, I cannot see HOW this could equate with joy.
We must, as trainers, choose criteria which are attainable for our dogs, then the rate of reinforcement for the dog will be high enough that the dog should find joy in the training session.
However if the reward we offer our dogs is not high enough for them, no matter HOW low we set out criteria the dog will not be joyful.
Ah, but certainly there were instructors/exams with criteria was easy to meet (hopefully because the instructor structured the class/exam to meet the criteria) vs. instructors with insanely impossible criteria to meet (or the exams did not fit the class criteria) where the only thing that allowed you to retain your sanity was to drop the class. Hummm… wonder if the border collie bark and spin w/o the heel nip would be understandable outside of the dog world. 🙂
Which would you perfer, former or the later (or hopefully something inbetween — challenging, but realistic)?
oops.. bottom part of message got cut off…
Rate of reinforcement also depends on the value the dog associates with both what you’re doing and what is being offered as a “reward”.
If the reward has very little value to the dog, then does an extremely high reward rate really have the same impact as a very high value reward but limited reward rate (everything else being equal)?
e.g. Would you have dropped the rediculously “insane” class if it was the only thing standing in your way to complete a program/degree or a class initially taken because it seemed interesting?
What if your only criteria is joy? And what if you teach any behavior without joy in mind and therefore have a precise behavior but doesn’t hold up under distractions or has any enthusiasm?
What if all of your dogs behaviors criteria included joy?
You made me think there for a moment of what is the critiera that I have for my dog, and my word is “fun” Not only for her but for me also. I think if working with my dog would ever be not fun, than that would be horrible. Thanks for making me think about how I feel working with my dog.
Wow! I think this is my favorite post yet! I am printing this one off and putting it somewhere to remind me of this all the time. Thanks.
criteria = standard
As I use the word criteria in training it means “the standard of performance for an anticipated behavior at that time or stage of training” (i.e. criteria may change with time as training advances). It is a yardstick by which the precision of the completed behavior can be measured, but it is not at all a description of the manner in which it is achieved. There should always be joy in the process of achievment (though there is likely to also be some frustration, and at times weariness), but as I use the term I don’t expect there to be any innate joy in criteria.
When I learned to fly it was especially fun for me to learn to land with precision, despite the challenge of crosswinds, difficult approaches, thermal activity, etc. My flight instructor established criteria which became more strict as I progressed (from “I want you to touch down somewhere in the first thousand feet of the runway” … to … “Plant the main gear on the 500-foot marker carrying an airspeed of 60 knots with 10 degrees of flaps”). There was no joy in the criteria themselves, but a great deal of joy, thrill, delight, and so forth in the learning process and in receiving my instructor’s variable reinforcement (from “Now that’s why some people call student landings ‘controlled crashes'” to “Hey, you’re starting to act like a pilot!” to, “Okay, I think you’re ready for me to get out. Would you like to take it around the pattern a few times solo?”).
I love to learn new things, and I try to be as contagious with that joy as possible, whenever I can, whether with animals or humans!!
“Goal” was the word that came to mind for me.
Although, I think Susan G’s word is more direct && specific. I suppose that one could say it’s also why alot of people (given I’m in a cattle herding area) prefer BC’s && Aussies for agility — joy of herd handling transfers to agility handling. Well, as long as both are done appropriately. 🙂
Hi Susan – To me, ‘Criteria’ means ‘Guidelines’ which are more flexible & adaptable than ‘rules’. One of my main Guidelines for several years now has been ‘Enjoyment’. I stopped training completely back in the late 1980’s because my dogs & I were not enjoying the activity as we were using negative, corrective training methods.
Then, about 10 yrs ago I started using positive, reward based methods. The dogs are happy & I continue to learn more each day! I agree, if you are not both enJOYing the training, then why do it?
The word I thought of was requisite. After reading the post I realized that was MY word, not my dog’s ‘word’ or at least not the one I wanted her to have. ‘Joy’ is so much better for HER…it’s what I want for my partner when we are doing agility together…or whatever the equivalent is in her doggie heart. I talk about being a partner to my dog or working as a team, but have never thought about what we do from the perspective of what she gets out of it. This blog has opened me up to thinking of the bigger picture.
Anal retentive me, but the word that comes to my mind is PLURAL.
Criteria is plural, criterion in singular.
So… criteria ARE the ways that my dog can be right.
I read this earlier tonight, before heading out to train the pups….and of course thought the post was wonderful (yes my word was “rules”…..I thought what the heck Susan read my mind!), I put the post in the back of my mind and wrote down “criteria = joy” in my training journal for future reminder/reference.
Once out with the pups I have to say just keeping this in the back of my mind while working with them created more lightheartedness in the work/play….and from working with the dogs in this manner I was able to get some really phenomenal performances with my dogs, especially Tala who I think I need to focus the most on finding joy with….so much of our beginning was about work for me and was about a struggle (both in my training with her and consequently our relationship, as I was in grief about the sudden loss of my mother and quickly after the loss of my grandfather….not a good way to take a young dog with temperament issues into the house, but I also could not see her go at that time, nor ever I just loved her even with the struggles – I think that was a karmic time for me and struggles…….).
Anyway, on and on with my rambling, sorry bout that.
But truly I will cherish this flip on what criteria means…..my new mantra – and I always felt I was truly being joyful with my dogs and playing with them, but this is a new level of figuring out the joy for them….caused me to see through their eyes more than my own, thank you for that Susan.
I’m working on putting together my training journal sheet, and there is now going to be a large section: “Was there joy in this session? Give evidence.”
Thank you Susan, this is an amazing post, just beautiful! And as I struggle with frustration in potty training my son……I’m going to find places to put joy into that training too! THANK YOU!!!!!! 🙂
Had to giggle when my answer “rules” was the answer most people give…. so predictable 😉
I am struggling with a contact behaviour so I did imagine myself with my dog, THAT behaviour and criteria hanging over my head – it’s a very negative feeling. Almost a feeling of too much pressure and expectation. I then imagined the same dog and behaviour with Joy instead of Rules and it immediately bought a smile to my face 🙂 I FELT the difference.
You have a brilliant ability to get to the crux of an issue. Thank you.
As usual Susan you are spot on. Lucky for me I found your Ruff Love book years ago and have practiced all of those relationship play games that bring tons of “joy” to my little Parson Russells. Ok, maybe too much joy in some cases, but I have never thought of criteria = joy. Now how to spread the “joy” in my running contacts without wild leaps. Hmmmm…..
beth bowling said:
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 8:36pm
> …. Now how to spread the “joy” in my running > contacts without wild leaps. Hmmmm…..
I’d suggest first trying to visualize normal non-leaping running contacts w/o the dog in the picture. 🙂
Great insight! I thought of the word “consistency” when I thought of “criteria,” but joy is so much more fun!
Criteria = outline, a list of what is expected.
Being a former teacher that is what I think of with the word criteria. Looking for the necesary steps to reach the desired end point.
Hmm interesting and I love the word joy for criteria. My dog gets great joy out of breaking her start line stay – running the course brings her the ultimate joy so it may be hard to find a way to make the stay as joyful as the running is.
Awesome post! My word was confidence. And right now I’m struggling with just that in my border collie. After a much disappointing training session today, there was yet another thing that he wasn’t confident in doing.
Thanks for making me realize what, I suppose, I already knew. Our life with our dogs should be about the joy, not the rules, no matter what we do with them!
My word was desire. But my desire not my dogs. Now I need to reverse that. I Want to be a keeper of the joy too. Thanks for once again bringing inspiration to me and my dogs. Margie
I’m paraphrasing what I learned at a seminar given by Denise Fenzi:
Working with you (the handler/trainer) is a privilege. The work is the joy, the work becomes the reward.
Criteria = “Picture”
Within my picture I have willingness to work,clarity of communication, teamwork and above all else a joyful relationship with my dog(s). If I can’t see that picture then I haven’t held up my end of the deal.
I learned many years ago from you Susan, to embrace and work with the dog you have, and to not try and make them into something they aren’t. When I took that lesson learned to heart, realizing I had to help my girl through her challenges rather than make her do things, we got our JOY back and soared.
Recallers has been a welcome reminder of what you taught me those years ago and has given me renewed inspiration to keep on playing with my dogs as we work towards our goals. I again have a challenging girl and you’ve helped us keep the JOY in our relationship as we make a game of our training.
Keeper of the JOY for SURE!
The word that always comes to mind for me is “picture”.
I then visulise what I want to accomplish or see happen.Then I plan the nessessary steps to achieve that goal.
Thank you, Susan, for the wonderful reminder of why we share our lives with dogs in the first place. And thank you, Wendy, for your comment. I, too, have started 2×2 training and have been frustrated about our lack of progress. I just need to buckle down and be a better trainer, and bring JOY to the process for me and my dog.
This post caught me in the heart. I have trained agility for 10 years now and I was always taught to ‘keep the criteria’.. Of course this took the joy out of the training. I had to sneak my laughing when I trained alone. Besides that I teach emotionally disturbed adolescents who are struggling with the ‘criteria’ for behavior for life. My dogs have grown so much since I have put the play and joy into training. My students will have to be my ‘dogs’ so that I put the joy into their daily struggles too. My forever thanks to you for articulating the joy.
Wow! I just watched some of your championship wins with Feature and Encore – on Youtube. Unbelievable! It’s like every step you take, every movement is precise, to the point and you and your dogs are ONE. Fantastic!!
The first word that came to mind was ‘gameplan’. My trainer just told me that my dog is ready to compete in agility, so I sent away for his number. In a few weeks we are attending some fun matches in agility and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking of how I want this to be for my dog and I. Your words hit home tonight – criteria = joy and that’s how I want it to be for my dog and I – fun, joyful and happy.
Now I’m more excited than ever, to help my dog find his joy on the agility course.
Thanks, Susan, for being such a great inspiration.