I am pretty sure C.S. Lewis wasn’t referring to dog training when he said of experience that although it was a “brutal teacher” you still do learn from it! However, truthfully that is how not only people but puppies learn. It is through interacting with the environment, the people, the things, and other animals etc.
Experiences bring lessons for both people and puppies.
Of course this holds true for older dogs as well. Just as we as humans don’t stop learning when we leave our childhood, dogs don’t stop learning when they leave puppyhood! Our environments are constantly sharing lessons with us.
Now the lessons often appear to come as a “coincidence” like the one in the picture above. In the photo the puppies experience finding my plastic cup and one of them pushes it over. Potentially they could have learned 1). If we push the cup over we may get to drink it’s yummy contents or 2) If we push over the cup it makes a loud scary noise and we don’t like that. Or in this case, where there was nothing in the cup and the noise wasn’t scary, the puppies may have learned nothing more than they like to play with plastic cups!
Any learning appears as a coincidence to the puppy. Now if that cup had been filled with goats milk (yuck!), which the puppies LOVE, the coincidence of them finding the cup and knocking it over would have help to guide their future experiences to seek out plastic cups!
To the inquisitive puppy anything enjoyable (fun, good tasting etc.) they find while investigating their environment is an AMAZING coincidence. The cool thing is…as pet owners we can arrange these coincidences to produce brilliant puppies and dogs who do what we want them to do. What may appear as a “coincidence” to the puppy is just “good dog training” to the rest of us!
Arranging coincidences brings AMAZING lessons!
That is exactly how reinforcement based training works. See the short video clip below that I just videoed this morning. The puppies are having fun chasing, jumping, chewing, digging in the garden but do a “head whip” to come running to me when I call.
How cool is that?
For these seven week old puppies when they go to their new homes in a week, they will already have a sound associated with the behaviour of running as fast as you can to your owner! All their new owners have to do is continue this great “coincidence” and change the sound “wit-wit-wit” to any sound they choose…like the puppies name or the word “come.”
Do you now see how training with “coincidences” works? Of course to you and I they are not “coincidences” at all…they are carefully planned training sessions. One lesson building upon the last.
This afternoon I did a big puppy recall “test”. We did another short video showing exactly how we set these puppies up to really see how well they understood their recalls.
And cute little puppy Wiggins brought along a tug toy bonus (yes we have been working on a retrieve with these puppies as well :)).
Now I didn’t just start making that noise when puppies were scattered all over our property and expect these puppies to coming running as fast as they could. I built up this valuable (potentially life saving) lesson over the past month. Starting with recalling a very short distance…from their beds to their dinner dish. It was followed with strategically planned layers of learning. However to the puppies…it is just a series of coincidences that has lead them to learning a lesson they want to continue to repeat. No matter where they are, no matter what they are doing…when they hear their recall word or noise, it means amazing things are about to happen!
I am working on another video showing how training with “coincidences” works for teaching the retrieve. I will have that one available next Monday (although Wiggins does give you a sneak peak in the recall video above:)).
Today I am grateful for this amazing litter of puppies that I continue to learn from so that I may in turn share my lessons with each of you.