This Chapter introduces the following topics: -
Dog training is not an exact science - no two dogs are the same and there is no such thing as a definitive training technique (ie one set of training steps that all dogs can learn from). It is almost impossible to label and group the different ways that dogs learn but here is a general guideline on how dogs think and learn.
By reading the different Groups you may be able to identify certain aspects in your dog's personality and how it learns. I hope to give you a better understanding about your dog and how you can tailor your dog's training programme accordingly.
GROUP A - This dog seems to grasp a concept very quickly and get frustrated and bored if it is asked to stay too long, or repeat, one aspect of training. It wants to learn more quickly, be challenged mentally and physically, and has a strong desire to fulfill its working instincts.
The drawback of teaching this type of dog is that it may make assumptions that it understands what you are trying to teach it (ie the dog misunderstands what it is being rewarded for) and the dog becomes frustrated when the handler cannot work out how to change the behaviour that it is offering. This frustration builds up the dog's stress levels so that it finds it difficult to think clearly and concentrate - both incompatible when animals or humans are trying to learn something new.
Another drawback for this group is that because these dogs seem to learn so quickly it is very tempting for the handler and trainer to rush through the different training elements.
However, by rushing the initial training the dog does not build up a firm foundation and understanding of what it has been taught. It soon starts to go wrong (for no apparent reason) when attempting the exercise - often in a competition environment or when distracted. This frustrates the handler as the dog seemed to fully understand what it was supposed to do as it sped through the training, and now the dog seems bewildered and confused about what it thought it should be doing and what the handler wants it to do.
Therefore, when training Group A type dogs the training steps of an exercise must be quick but thorough. Introduce generalisation as often as you can with each step so that you can test the dog's understanding of what it is being taught while still making the training interesting by varying the location, position and motivators you give it.
GROUP B- This dog seems self reliant and introverted. It has learnt to cope with living in human society but has very little understanding of what humans are trying to communicate to it. Instead, it learns from observing human behaviour, and other triggers around it, how to gain Life Rewards such as -
These dogs see no reason or motivation to do something for their owners - they have all the life rewards they need and see little point in interacting with the humans or playing with any toys. They switch off and ignore human speech as it has little relevance for them - some dog owners speak so much to their dog that it is unable to differentiate between inane human chatter and a specific word or command that it is supposed to obey. Group B's humans often have not been consistent in how they used their commands and training (particularly when to use the dog's name and for what reasons, and whether it is rewarding for the dog to return to the human when it hears the word "come"), or show such stress and emotion when they speak that the dog is confused whether it is being told off or praised.
Because of this, great thought and planning must be given in choosing the dog's motivator before starting to train it. The training motivator needs to be a life reward of high enough value that the dog will choose to work for it - see those listed above. Plan to do training just before the dog is allowed a life reward and it will associate the training with something it likes and enjoys. Try not to allow the dog this motivator at any other time unless it has correctly done at least one of the current steps of its training programme.
For instance in Bounce - Starters, when the dog is being taught how to jump a hurdle; before the dog is taken for a walk, the handler should put the dog in a room so that it cannot see or hear the preparations they are about to make. The handler should then set the hurdle up in their back garden, put their walking shoes, coat etc in the car (as these are strong triggers to the dog that it is going to be taken on a walk) and leave the car door unlocked so that it can be opened quickly later on. The dog is brought out to the hurdle on the harness and lead and encouraged to jump the obstacle. As soon as the dog jumps over it the handler needs to show their happiness and pleasure (plenty of smiles and happy voice) and immediately take it to the waiting car and drive to the location where the dog is walked. If this routine is done before the commencement of EVERY walk the dog will soon associate the sight and movement of jumping as a very happy and pleasant experience and will actively look for and jump any hurdles, hoping to be given another life reward.
Group B dogs may also benefit from being trained with a clicker, as its sound has no previous associations with either human voices or previous attempts at training etc. Clicker training is very popular to these type of dogs as the treat it is given after hearing the click can be thrown on the floor for the dog to hunt with its nose and scavenge for - life rewards that it already appreciates. Please do not attempt to train your dog with a clicker unless an experienced dog trainer has taught you, or you have read suitable books and watched good videos on the subject.
CLICKERS SHOULD NEVER BE USED TO ATTRACT A DOG'S ATTENTION
- THE SOUND IS USED TO PINPOINT THE BEHAVIOUR THAT THE DOG WILL BE REWARDED FOR
GROUP C - Another aspect of dog training is the dog's ability to think while it is moving. Some dogs seem to switch off most of their thought processes when they stand still, yet are highly intelligent and responsive when moving with or around the handler or trainer (particularly some of the sight hounds). These dogs need to learn on the move - literally - so that all the training is done with plenty of variety of location and direction.
For instance, in Round - Starters the handler needs to walk slightly towards the traffic cone so that the dog is moving as well. This movement stimulates the dog's thought processes and it is more eager to go towards the target area.
These dogs work best for moving motivators - it keeps their minds ticking over, yet the playing with the motivator must not be too stimulating otherwise the dog will not want to do the exercise beforehand. Raggits, Grabbits and chasing treat containers are all good motivators for these dogs, compared to hunting for treats on the ground, being given treats from the hand etc.
GROUP D - These dogs are the opposite of Group C dogs. They become over excited and stressed when they are moving and need to learn the exercises in quiet low key training sessions, with very little movement of either handler or dog, until the dog has built up confidence about what it is supposed to do. It is very tempting to over face these dogs by asking them to learn too quickly, however, they would become too confused at the changing training steps it had to do in a session.
Ideal motivators for these dogs would be the opposite ones to those in Group C - hunting for treats at the handler's feet, treat containers just dropped on the ground waiting for the handler to open them, treats in the hand, quiet games of catch the toy rather than chase it etc.
As was stated at the beginning of this section, the above groups are not a definitive list of types of dogs and most dogs fall in to one or more of these groups, depending on the type of training it is doing and the motivator it is using. However, by reading this section it should help you to understand your dog a little better.
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