a Training Plan
When you decide
to train a behavior, how much thought do you put into the process before
starting? Do you just jump in with both feet, ready to experiment? Do
you break the behavior down and figure out how you're going to get the
spend relatively little time planning their training. As a result, steps
are frequently overlooked, not added until problems develop and reveal
the holes in the training. Or, the trainer simply reaches a point where
he isn't sure what to do next.
The most efficient
way to train is to start with a training plan. A training plan gives
you a roadmap from where you are to where you want to be.
The first step
is to define the behavior in detail.
- What will
the finished behavior look like?
be able to picture the behavior in perfect, precise detail. Don't
just focus on the obvious Think about each part of the dog's body
-- what must it be doing during each part of the behavior? Want
a dog to win the heart of the judge? Include a wagging tail and
pricked ears as requirements of the behavior. In clicker training,
it's all possible! By the way, don't forget the dog's mouth. So
often people ask me how to stop a dog from whining or barking during
the behavior. If silence is part of the behavior, plan it, and train
it from the start!
- How will
this behavior be cued?
Physically? Environmentally? A combination? Remember that part of
teaching a cue is making sure that only the cues you want become
lasting cues -- and that dogs are master discriminators. Include
plenty of time for generalizing the behavior.
- What kind
of latency is required?
is speed of response -- the time that elapses between the cue and
the behavior. Zero latency is an immediate response. Fast latency
is habitual, meaning if you train it for some behaviors, the dog
will likely adopt it for all behaviors.
- Does this
behavior have duration? Distance?
should the behavior last? If there's a specific time requirement,
plan to train fifty percent beyond that. For example, if you need
a two minute sit-stay for competition obedience, plan to train at
least a three minute sit-stay.
should be trained similarly. Distance includes behaviors where the
dog is sent to work at a distance, behaviors where the dog must
respond to a cue when he is at a distance from the owner, and behaviors
where the dog must maintain a behavior even when the owner moves
away from him. Distance is challenging because the further the handler
is from the dog, the stronger environmental stimuli become.
- Does your
dog have to be in a particular place relative to you to perform this
dog always be in front of you or perhaps always within a certain
radius of you? If not -- and especially if you specifically don't
want the dog to restrict his position relative to you -- you should
plan on spending time generalizing this element.
- Are you
always going to be sitting, standing, or lying down when you give
is a generalization issue. Your body position can easily become
a secondary cue for the behavior. This may work for you in competition
heeling, but it can sabotage you for a household sit.
- In what
locations will the behavior be cued?
trains every behavior in twenty different locations to ensure that
his police dogs truly generalize their behaviors. You may not need
quite that much generalization. For some behaviors, you don't need
any! My dogs, for example, aren't allowed in the kitchen of our
house. They don't need to generalize to other rooms or other houses.
- What distractions
might the dog face in those locations when performing the behavior?
rank them, train them.
- How reliable
does this behavior have to be?
is a number. You may need only 9 out of 10, or you may need 99 out
100 -- or 999 out of 1000.
of the behavior is a detailed description of where you want to go. The
second step is to evaluate where you currently are. If this is a brand
new behavior, thats easy! Youre starting from scratch. If
this is an in-progress behavior, evaluate the behavior for all of the
above criteria. Keep records and let the data tell you exactly what
your dog is capable of doing reliably.
The final step
is to make a plan to get from where you are to where you want to be.
Start with the behavior. Break it into responses, and shape it to perfection.
When its exactly right, add the cue. Then one by one add elements
like duration, distance, and distractions.
As you train,
keep your training plans firmly in mind. Track your progress. Periodically
review your training plan, and revise the definition of the final behavior,
if necessary. Dont stop working on the behavior until the behavior
your dog performs is a reliable mirror image of the behavior you described.
List and Site
Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com