Tag Archives: capturing

What the world needs now…

(apart from love, sweet love, that is)

…is dog trainers, good dog trainers.

Dog trainers with exquisite mechanical skills and exemplary instructing skills. Dog trainers who behave professionally and who emphasise puppy and dog training.

You would think that this is what we have within our population of dog trainers. If we did, then I think we would be in a better place.

Professionalism, regulation, certification, recognition (or lack thereof)

You will commonly hear that the only thing that two dog trainers agree on is, that the third dog trainer is wrong. We hear it so often it is cliché and is largely accepted, which informs our view of our evolving industry.

IMG_0313

 

It is unlikely that professional regulation for dog trainers will be widespread any time soon. We don’t have any sort of minimum standards of anything right now, and this is difficult to establish in such a diverse and divisive atmosphere.

Because there are no standards, there are no standards.

This is not made any easier by the really, really confusing array of certifications and titles, and a stunningly large number of organisations to align with – each and every one can offer you something you just don’t get from another and so on.
Or plethora of educational institutions offering courses, seminars, webinars, books, articles, blogs, tips, clips and promising you that they, over all the others will offer you the very best.

And to add to the in-fighting among individuals, it’s present among professional bodies and organisations too, with one not recognising the achievements or certifications of another.

Developing some sort of structure is tricky because we would have to develop minimum standards in practice, but trickiest of all, there would need to be some incentive to do so.

Pressure needs to come from pet owners, but because of a history of expert advice offered and accepted by everyone from vets to groomers, from TV gurus to the random man in the park, it’s hard to see how there would sufficient motivation for the pet owning population to exert this pressure when I’m not sure many are aware or (dare I say) care about professional standards for dog trainers.

But it is getting better. It is unrecognisable compared to the so-called industry I started in and continues to grow and develop.

Dogs and dogma

Balance, in dog training, is a dirty word. The dominance of social media (I’m allowed to say the D word in this context!) means that polarisation of all things dog is becoming entrenched in our culture.

Listen, there are more than two ways to do most things and that’s the case in dog training.  We are dealing with living beings, both two and four legged, and changing environmental conditions – that’s why behaviour exists, is modifiable and is so adaptable.

wPJij4a

You can have a wide and varied toolbox without having to venture outside your comfort zone.

And having a comfort zone, that’s ok too. Choosing to train in a certain way doesn’t make you better or someone else worse.

In general, teaching and learning have been moving away from the application of aversive methodologies and emphasising the importance of mechanical teaching skills and careful management of the learning environment. This is good.

IMG_9746

But exactly how this is applied varies and therein lies the problem – the dog training world is a polarised place and the more one movement promotes their mantra, the more another movement pushes further and further away.

Polarisation is not getting us anywhere, as the same arguments are rehashed again and again on the various stages, most of them via social media.

Lances-Rants-GrindsMyGears-Labels

Despite our emphasis on un-labelling animal behaviour, we sure spend a lot of time trying to define more and more specific boxes into which we can squeeze our training.

“Positive”, “force-free”, “traditional”, “balanced”, “humane”, “welfare-friendly”, “working dog trainer”, “show dog trainer”, “crossover trainer”…

We are trying to stand out from the ‘others’ with whom we don’t agree, and in doing so pigeon hole our training, skill and knowledge.

Dog training can often be hostile. Social media, which has become an important part of dog trainer culture, makes this hostility more impactful. Clinging to a ‘side’ is negatively reinforced and that’s pretty powerful.

IMG_8105

When we are starting out, we want to belong. We need the support, and we might not have the confidence to stand out or pull against the tide. It’s easy to be sucked in and to find comfort there.

That brings us to an interesting point of contention – we might be quick to apply these more modern approaches to teaching to our canine students but not so generous when dealing with fellow two-leggers.

b8abb277042535488bd6040099d5aa38
Want behaviour change? You first!

Well, as we say in dog training, you get the behaviours you reinforce, not the ones you want. Behaviour is behaviour is behaviour and regardless of what label you are aligned with, we are technicians and facilitators of behaviour change, so we shouldn’t be finding this so hard, right?!

Science & practice

Something pretty cool has happened in the last couple of decades that has really accelerated our practice but also the trainer wars – dogs have become a popular subject of scientific study. Every week papers are published of scientific merit and we get to drool over them, working out the best ways to apply this new knowledge.

IMG_8881

To do this requires a thorough understanding of the principles of behaviour and behaviour change.

We have a whole science of behaviour to call on, and although we still have lots to learn we have a good understanding of lots of areas of natural animal behaviour and how animals learn.

110410-450x580-surveillance

No modern dog trainer can function ethically, competently, effectively without this bread and butter.

Walk before you can run

We all want to sell our wares; it’s an industry after all, and each of us needs to eat and make a living. To do this each trainer is trying to get their unique selling point to the forefront.

In our evolving industry, with our competing educational and certifying bodies abound, there is an influx of courses and seminars and webinars and fads and trends boasting the latest methodology, or more advanced techniques and in some cases, information that will never be applied (realistically or correctly) by most dog trainers.

And as excited as I am about new discoveries and new ideas, I am just as concerned about the loss of focus on the very foundation that’s our bread and butter.

All the sexy stuff is great but to become a really great dog trainer, one of those ones that the world really needs, requires a simply excellent mastery of those foundations.

Becoming better

249359_296771190428121_1060284843_n

  • learn how to capture behaviour – how to arrange prompts to get behaviour without causing frustration or loss of interest
  • learn how to shape behaviour, without relying on extinction – be a better observer, be a better setter of criteria
  • develop exquisite timing
  • learn how to handle food rewards – how to get them from you to the dog, how to position them to promote learning
  • learn about motivation and how reinforcement functions
  • learn how to lure so that you get behaviour quickly, and can fade those lures quickly
  • learn how to fade prompts, without losing integrity or quality of behaviour
  • learn how to manipulate the learning environment so that you can progress and generalise learning
  • increase your ROR, and when you have increased it, increase it some more
  • build desired behaviours rather than break down unwanted ones
  • learn how to supervise dog-dog interactions
  • learn how to expose puppies to different experiences to best facilitate their behavioural development
  • train your dog, and live what you preach
  • develop the gift of foresight so that you can predict and prevent – be proactive, not reactive
  • learn how to safely organise teaching so that every one is safe
  • learn about muzzling, and barriers and proper management
  • become an amazing definer of criteria – don’t settle for good enough
  • plan your training, split criteria and be adaptable
  • forget about the sexy stuff, forget about aggression and biting and reactivity – get really good at training behaviours, and I mean really good
  • and once you have aced all that with dogs, start working with other species like prey animals who don’t like you, or predatory animals who can hurt you – dogs are forgiving and hide a multitude of our sins
  • develop skills in applying this to humans too

This list is the tip of the iceberg, and I haven’t even mentioned the people-training stuff, professional & business stuff or the rest of the dog stuff.
(Can you add to this list?)

But if you get really really really really good at this stuff, the other stuff falls into place and all that advanced, pie-in-the-sky information fits right in, is beneficial and enjoyable, rather than overwhelming.

What the world doesn’t need more of…

IMG_7244

We don’t need more egos who feature in their own videos more than dogs or dog training do.

We don’t need more dog whisperers, listeners, psychologists, experts, specialists.

We don’t need more gurus with massive social media followings, who can’t seem to demonstrate these basic skills with other people and their pets (as in, being a dog trainer).

We don’t need more rehabilitators, or aggression specialists, or reactive dog fixers.

We don’t need more organisations, or certifications or titles.

(Can you add to this list?)

IMG_9625

Be a critical thinker, challenge what you are told and what you believe. Don’t get sucked in.

10408143_1045551528799191_2056890199941584759_n

Above all else, what the world needs now are more great dog trainers.

Get out there and train, teach people, show off your skills, have fun with your dog and be a great dog trainer, making that difference.

This week, at AniEd

This week has been super-dooper busy as CBTT5 have been in everyday, for their last week of tuition.

IMG_0755

CBTT-ers

The Canine Behaviour & Training Technician course is the big one! It’s for those who want to become serious, make-a-difference, professionals in canine care, training and behaviour.

It’s delivered over about one year, with learners attending for tuition for two separate block weeks (bookending the course) and four separate weekends. They complete 15 units (subjects) and to successfully graduate must achieve at least 80% in each unit.

To say that this is a tough course is a bit of an understatement so just surviving to their last week is in and of itself a MAJOR achievement. Our learners are amazing!

CBTT5, their last week

Decker is ready and waiting to greet the learners on their last week with us for tuition!

IMG_0701

We started with Domestication & Selective Breeding, developing an understanding of the effects of our past and current breeding practices has on dogs, their health & behaviour.

The canine genome was mapped in 2004 and since then, our understanding of canine genetics has grown and grown. Dogs are currently ‘cool’ in science right now, and we couldn’t be happier with the wealth of knowledge that is becoming available everyday.

Dogs are an amazingly diverse species, more so than any other, yet dog breeds have become closed gene pools. These very small gene pools can cause a range of problems for modern dogs and only through awareness and education can we see incremental change in improving canine welfare.

We looked at a range of works studying the genetic health of canine populations, the related causes and effects, breed and behaviour, better breeding of modern dogs and we truly challenged our minds illustrating the true complexity of canine genetics.

Link

Next we worked on Advanced Canine Behaviour discussing temperament evaluations, enrichment, the emotional impacts of training & behaviour procedures and principles of behaviour change programs.

Using clips and examples we can work out the causes of and reasons for behaviour – this goes a long way to us developing programs to help pets and their people.

In the clip above, what behaviours do you see? You might see behaviour/s that the dog is doing or maybe that the human is doing.

What causes that behaviour to happen? Looking at what happens just before the behaviour can give us a good idea of what makes that behaviour happen. This tells the animal (dog or human) when to carry out the behaviour.

What happens just after the behaviour? This gives us the reasons for the animal (dog or human) doing the behaviour. This is the why of behaviour.

We use this tool, functional assessment, to help us analyse the things that cause and maintain behaviours including those that might cause problems.

Nobody said this dog training business was going to be easy…!

e773bc27eef6870f28e603e907a3e8b6

On our last day we looked at the Biology of Behaviour & Cognition.  This complex unit looks at the behaviour from the brain up, starting with studying brain and how it functions to allow animals to carry out behaviours and to learn about their world.

Again, there has been an explosion in studying dogs in terms of their cognitive abilities and we can take full advantage of that to learn as much as we can.

We end our discussion of these vast topics with a look at canine play and the way in which dogs use play signaling in many complex and varied ways.
Play has always puzzled science, labeling it apparently functionless behaviour but play is way more than that. Besides, play is about having fun and that’s often reason enough; just like these happy campers:

Link

Link

Link

With all this studying, analysis and scientific thinking, we sometimes need a reminder as to why we got so immersed in the first place. Because dogs are AWESOME!

So, we spent some time looking at all the reasons that dogs are amazing, all the tremendous highs they bring us and the often, terrible, lows that come from living with and loving dogs:

They make the best friends…

Link

… right to the end (WARNING tissues required):

Link

CBTT5 at Tayto Park

As part of working on their Advanced Canine Training unit, the fabulous people at Tayto Park give our CBTT learners access to their zoo so that we can spend two days working with other species in a new and challenging environment.

Learning applies to all species (capable of learning) so to really test how well CBTT5 can apply this, we practice with prey species like goats, pigs, sheep, donkeys, guanaco and fowl.

Craig, one of the Tayto keepers, spent some time with our learners (thanks Craig!) demonstrating the applications to our training work there. He is working with their female Amur Tiger showing her presenting on cue (when asked), different parts of her body through the fence, for checking and routine care such as vaccination and blood testing. No restraint, force or sedation required!

Link

At all times in this work the animals choose to participate. They are well-fed so will and do move away when they feel like it – this is why we work on the other side of the fence (not just for safety) to ensure that the animals can leave it they want and we can’t really do a lot about it!  Ever tried to force a tiger to do something?!

These same techniques can be applied to our pet animals to reduce the need for restraint, force and distress during routine grooming, medical or husbandry care. Just because we can force them, doesn’t mean that we should…

Targeting

Using targeting to get behaviour is a little like luring, but more complex. We must first teach the animal a targeting behaviour – in this case touching their nose to the wooden spoon. Once they readily offer  this targeting behaviour, we can use that to teach further behaviours.

Link

Targeting can be used to hold animals in position without restraint, move them to observe for lameness, for example, move them so that they can be transported or change their position, it can be used to guide the animal up or down so that we can check various processes, and to teach other behaviours.

Donkeys will work for…

When we are working with these animals, finding the right motivator is often challenging as these animals are well fed with a range of foods, have access to their buddies and can move away any time.

It is the learner who decides what they are willing to work for and it’s up to the teacher to work that out!

Here our CBTT5 learners work out that these donkeys will work for grass (picked from close to their enclosure) and scratches to the neck!

Link

Freeshaping

CBTT5 use capturing to ‘catch’ the animals doing a behaviour that they want to work with.

After observing the animals, planning their training, they set out to wait for or prompt their subject animals to offer a behaviour: click & treat!

Like this Guanaco, sticking her nose out the gap:

Link

From there, they will reward successive approximations until the animal is offering a bigger, better behaviour, increment by increment. Freeshaping allows for the teaching of some complex behaviours.

Lame Goat

Link

Starting out we capture the goat lifting her foot to put it on the fence and by timing our click correctly we can reward the goat for just lifting her foot, then holding it up.

You can see that this is not a linear process – the learner writes the plan for you and the trainer directs the process by rewarding relevant behaviours that the learner chooses to offer.

Check out how much this momma-goat gets the game – at the end you will see there is a delay as we chat about planning – the goat, not getting rewarded for lifting her right goat begins to lift her left foot instead to see if that also works.

Now that’s a learning goat who gets how to operate her environment – the goal of teaching YAY!

Peek-a-boo

Link

By capturing the Guanaco’s look-around-the-other-side-of-the-pole behaviour, we can freeshape a game of peek-a-boo.

Rewarding her looking at the other side of the pole over and over, soon she will begin to offer that behaviour consistently.
Then we can begin to reward this behaviour at our side of the pole and soon the Guanaco will move back and forth, playing peek-a-boo!

Take a bow, Guanaco

Link

Using the bars on the fence we can measure our progress with this Guanaco, teaching her to lower her head more and more.

To put that on cue CBTT5 learners keep practicing until the Guanaco is consistently offering the behaviour.
Just before she bows, we can add our cue (a human bow!) and only reward her bowing behaviour if offered after our cue.

Donkey Head Lift

Freeshaping a head lift behaviour by rewarding the donkeys for lifting their head a little further.
We can use the bars of the fence to measure our progress and reward and build.

Link

With the head lift behaviour we can add our own twists to get some very sweet behaviours.

By rewarding a higher head lift we have taught the donkey to give a kiss on cue (“gimme a kiss”) and use our kissy noise as the marker (instead of the clicker) and then reward with some yummy grass.

Link

By beginning to reward a slight head turn when the donkey lifts her head she is soon offering a head tilt. A human head tilt is used as a cue for this very cute behaviour.

Link

Dogs will help us a lot in our training, making up for deficits in mechanical skill. Working with animals who can take-us-or-leave-us, in an environment where we have less control really helps us to identify and perfect any areas that need improvement. We all really appreciate teaching dogs after that!

We are so lucky to have such fantastic support from the Tayto Park team, who open their doors and accommodate us, even though the park may be closed, undergoing renovations and the staff all very busy.
We always have a great time and our learners really benefit from this unique experience.

Just for fun…

…here’s 30 seconds of five day old baby Pygmy Goats frolicking:

Link