Friday, 20 May 2011

For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward

For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward - Jim Rohn

Reward based training continues to make great steps in the modern world. Its evolution has been rapid; a testimony to its global success. Looking back just 10 years and dog training flyer's would advertise being 'top dog', instant results and 'trained by ex-police dog handler'! In my area there are still a few of these classes advertised and I often get the privilege to rehabilitate some of their 'failed' pupils.

So, I will introduce dog 'A'. Dog 'A' arrived on a thick choke chain, neck low, eyes staring to the ground, feet firmly planted in the ground, tail under and eyes bulged. Dog 'A' is just 4 months, from good breeding. Dog A's owner, in-between tears, explains just 2 weeks ago her puppy was confident, happy and 'all over the place'. I questioned what had happened to the dog during the last few weeks. To my shock it appeared the reasoning behind the sorry state in front of me was 'socialisation classes'. In the past I have seen clients with dogs displaying these traits as a result of training classes which are largely based on aversive, correctional techniques. But how could socialisation go so wrong ....?

Thanks to 'Dog A' who motivated me to write the blog below and Dog A's owner for allowing em to use their dog as an example :):)

Modern, reward based training relies heavily on finding what a dog values and using it to achieve a set criteria. D-Force companion classes refer to socialisation as 'socialisation training', it reminds people to use this reward in their socialisation. Below is a video of a friends dog 'exploring the farm' - great job Danni. A treat is used in order to: create a positive experience, teach the dog what is wanted, reward confident approaches, control the situation, build value in exploring, aid bounce back. This puppy is a far cry from 'Dog A' but i have no doubt that with positive methods on board 'Dog A' will be up to this challenge in no time :):)

Without rewards present, we can not refer to socialisation as socialisation training. Instead, we could call it flooding. 'Throw him in the deep end, he'll have to get used to it' type attitude. Flooding a puppy to encounter a new experience is dangerous. The chances are the puppy will experience fear, as a result survival instincts will kick in. Accept, Flight, freeze, flight (or fiddle about if your a Labrador :P) are the options we have given the puppy. Probability states the chances are the puppy will pick one of the undesirable traits (all but 'accep't). We have put our dogs in the situation where a new experience has become negative. This result is likely to be mirrored or exaggerated in your dogs next encounter with a new experience. We are creating a learnt behaviour in our dogs that is going to create a unhappy, un-confident, dog that is unable to deal with the encounters of daily life.

This is not to say I think dogs should never have to deal with a degree of stress. It is impossible to shield our dogs from stress in their lives and therefore it is important they learn to deal with it whilst young. However, i do not believe socialisation is the place for.

It's only three days till day 1 of D-Force Dog Training Agility Camp. I will try to keep you all updated with camp going-ons.

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