If you are a newsletter subscriber then earlier today you would have received a post on evaluating and working towards eliminating “baggage” in your relationship with your dog. All of our dogs carry around some form of baggage from living with and learning from us. This baggage is just artifacts of our dog training choices from the past. That is why as you wait for your next puppy you are filled with anticipation of how different it is going to be “next” time. You will have a clean slate, a new puppy without the baggage of the mistakes you made before you “knew better.”
Today’s newsletter was about not waiting for that new puppy. It is about cleaning up what is there with your current dogs so you both can enjoy training more fully. Here on the blog I am going to highlight a couple of the points I made in the newsletter. First of all, my earlier dogs carried baggage of my “methodology” shopping. Like possibly many of you that are reading the philosophy of dog training I initially started in was flawed in that it wasn’t based on sound scientific, proven principles. It caused confusion which showed in my dogs. When I started my search for more information I examined a lot of different ideas on dog training. When I found Bob and Marion Bailey in the late ’90’s I knew I could stop my searching.
The same was true with my handling in agility. I went to a few seminars until I found one that felt right for my dogs and I. Then I stuck with it. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t altered my dog training or handling, it means that I have not added anything that isn’t consistent with the way I want to train and handle my dogs. That is my advise to you, find out what makes sense to you, what fits in with the vision you have of the ultimate relationship with your dog. Create your vision and don’t stray. I often hear people say they are going to a seminar to “pick up a nugget” to “mix in” with what they already have. Another “tool” for their tool box.
In theory that sounds wonderful, but in realty take a look at a specialist in any field. They often have a few good tools they rely on but they have stopped over stuffing their tool boxes years ago. When trying to decide if you need to join the next seminar, on-line course or buy the latest book you need to decide for yourself if what you are considering is going to be a great contribution to your dog training or if it is nothing more than another distraction, taking up your valuable time and money.
There may be a momentary feeling that by narrowing your focus you might be “missing out” by not participating in the latest “Shiny Object Club”, but that feeling will soon pass and be replaced with one of great confidence. The more you focus on what you have and not what you may be missing, the greater you will learn to execute more effectively with the methodologies that do fit best with the kind of trainer and handler you want to be.
Since it is more difficult to show you my “dog training” from yester-year, I will let you enjoy a glimpse back at my agility handling journey from the past.
Non Reward Markers
With today’s generation of dog trainers looking to be more positive comes a wave of people not wanting to physically correct their dogs (hurray!) However there is a gap between not wanting to use positive punishment and “how the heck do I stop my dog from doing something I don’t want him to do?” To many this gap seems daunting, you are paralyzed with two polar opposite thoughts, wanting to STOP your dog for doing what he is doing but not wanting to correct your dog! What results is people misguidedly try to use a “Non Reward Marker” in place of “verbal correction.”
Personally, I will use a NRM (non reward marker) when I am training a behaviour chain. Here when the dog completes one response of the chain he is rewarded for his effort by being allowed to progress to the next response. So if you are teaching a dog to “go out” for obedience and he wasn’t going straight, by allowing him to continue forward you are rewarding the crooked line the dog has taken . . . even if you do not give him a treat at the end of the go-out! If you were to verbally “correct” your dog with an “aah aah” your dog will soon slow done and eventually may even become hesitant about “going out.” The truth is the dog isn’t “bad” for going crooked, he was only mistaken. Mistakes should not have any associated blame in dog training, they are just feedback. If you watch the video clip below of me working a behaviour chain of weaving with my young dog “Swagger” you can see that any time I use a NRM, Swagger’s response is one of acknowledgement rather than dejection. With every NRM he hears he now knows he has eliminated one more option that is incorrect and he is one step closer to earning his reinforcement.
Today I am grateful that my overseas vistors coming in from two different continents all arrived save and sound; let the fun begin!