Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Rules

On the heels of a lively online discussion about training tools and methods, I thought I would pass along some rules that come in handy when contemplating how to teach my dog (or any species). 

Rule #1
We don't get to decide what is punishing or rewarding-the dog does. In other words,  "The rat is always right"
Example-if you gave me a certificate for a hot air balloon ride for a job well done, for me, that would NOT be a rewarding experience.

A punisher in the behavioral sense is an event that STOPS a behavior. 
Example-if I touch a hot stove burner, I am unlikely to do so again. "Punishment" in common vernacular is something doled out as retribution. Very different in the behavioral sense.

How will you know if your training is working? If the desired behavior either increases or decreases (whichever you are going for)
Example-I ask my dog to "sit" and he sits.

If the desired behavior does not occur-YOU must re-examine your training plan. After all, are you not the one with the bigger brain?
Example-"My dog sits when I ask him to at home, but not at the dog park!" Ask yourself-have I trained him around distractions (adding item in one at a time)?, am I competing with the environment (can my dog think around squirrels, for example)? 

Rule #5
Get rid of labels that cloud training goals.
Labels such as "stubborn" "blowing me off" or "psycho" are constructs that get in the way of a clear training plan. Is this easy to do? NO! Living with a dog that persists in chewing, peeing on anything that does or does not move, howling, barking can be frustrating as hell. It feels really good to resort to shouting at the dog. However, while a good pressure relief valve this may be-it ain't training (unless it meets the criteria set forth in Rule#3). 

Rule #5
Perspective is everything. Read this blog by a human having an eye exam. Keep in mind that she knows WHY the various procedures are being done. Our dogs haven't a clue about why we insist they tolerate certain procedures.

One more thought-a training tool implies that once the training is complete, the tool is removed. Can your dog perform the requested behavior without the tool? That is a true test of whether or not learning has taken place. Suppressing a behavior and teaching a behavior may have the same end result, but are two different things entirely. 

Happy Training!