A Day of Learning

A no-training day does not mean he gets a lazy day lying idly in the sun. Learning is still happening and this is significant and important for his development.

Chasm opening up?

The more I see “sit, down, come, stay heel” as the essential basics the more I am moving further away from the general view of living with dogs.

Surprising Puppy

Surprising Puppy. With obnoxious moments. After introducing the obnoxious puppy as a youngster I am knocked over by the Delightful Young Man he is turning into……

Obnoxious Puppy

The delight of your new puppy is probably going to last a few weeks, maybe four if you are lucky. When 12 weeks old hits, and you will feel a slam, the Delight is going to demonstrate ungrateful, obnoxious traits.

Sit back and learn

How we learn is very personal. There is no doubt that if we can learn through more than one sense at the same time and wrap this in pleasure, then...

What is a community?

3 min readBeing part of a community means many different things depending on who is listening and who is talking. It almost has the same...

Normal is always changing

What was normal in training 20 or 40 years ago is not the same today. There are folk persistently maintaining the normal of 1976, but fortunately there are enough folk with a deeper understanding of the processes that have moved normal forwards.

Wheat or Chaff?

What is the purpose of this video? To sell a product, to instruct or to inspire? It should be clear from the first viewing. Often we are seeing an unhealthy blend of talking head, dripping treats into bored dog, convincing you of their innate expertise.

More than words

We expect our dogs to understand the meaning of words and signals, but if you have ever worked with computers you will know that what you say doesn’t always turn into an actionable response.

Can’t not learn

Dog, puppy or person, we can’t not learn. The environment is “playing on us” all the time, when we are watching TV, FaceBooking, listening to a podcast, in a lesson, we cannot not learn. Are you aware of what learning is happening?

The Table Game

Coming up to 20 years since I designed this game for my college students in computing – to improve communication!
Who knew it would become a future piece of technology for world of training and behaviour analysis?

… and cruises of course!

Pea, Chick Pea

Chick Pea is a lone survivor. July saw a pen of 12 happy birds of various backgrounds, September left just one.

What is a Trainer?

I know what I am, as a trainer. But does my view of “A Trainer” coincide with, or even overlap with yours?

Rewards Aloud

Most dog sports have evolved from either competitions for purposely bred skills in dogs (such as sheepdog trials, shooting, hunting) or from military activities in the post-war 1950s.

Remote lures

Lures at a distance, separated from hands, pockets . Using reward stations, patterns, containers

Going Shopping

This is a joint travelling adventure. It completely resets the learning and can easily extend the reinforcement process.

A teaching plan

The pathway ahead, a road map for success. Details of what, why, when, how.

A Cue or not a cue?

With thoughtful planning and a good understanding of the relevance of antecedent selection we can teach the dog the skills of sorting the wheat from the chaff, finding the bones of the exercise. This skill is critical to being able to distinguish between distractions, which are just cues for an alternative reward opportunity, and cues which signify a guarantee of success.

Pleasure for the dog?

If we seek to teach, then we need to be skilled in the process of reinforcement. It should encompass pleasure for the dog not just convenience for us

More than a reinforcer

Just delivering a treat is not enough. The delivery of that treat can become a highly valued process, eagerly sought by the dog because the delivery involves so much more than “dump-and-swallow”.

Confused by Collies?

The classic training protocols are too often about supressing the annoying behaviours without realising that a sheepdog can no more stop being a sheepdog than you can stop being a human and become a hamster.

The choice of lure

Luring teaches trainers essential skills. We learn how to use suggestion and guidance to shape behaviours. We learn how to explain dynamic movement in the cues from our hands. In combination with reinforcement, luring has without doubt, been one of the skills I value most as a trainer.

Duration or is it Breakfast in Bed?

Teaching duration has become a very muddied understanding or what it is and how to teach it. This is partly due to how we use words that are the same but have entirely different meanings.

Guidance is not dependence

Guidance can be the lightest change in contingencies, an extra antecedent. I can place a palette of different paints and brushes next to the chair. It doesn’t mean you need to paint the chair, you could sit on the chair and paint your own shoes, but just the presence of the tools would give you guidance.

Ethics in Dog Training

Whether you are an owner looking for help with your dog, a trainer taking your first steps towards helping others or an experienced trainer looking to improve – keep working, keep learning, stay curious.

The life of my Time

Time is my ninth generation of collies. He lives for being a collie and all that collies have done for generations – work in partnership and assist in what their Person likes to do. This ranges from collecting sheep off the mountain to toddling round the main ring at Crufts.

The need to correct an error

Our cultural history of training dogs is laced with Person shows Dog types of principles. As if a person can actually “tell” a dog how to sit, when...

Changing is growth

We are naturally attracted to familiar ways of training or living with our dogs. We have often worked hard to learn those habits and there is a reluctance to make changes since this is hard work. It takes mentally energy to note what we are not doing well, recall what changes we need to make, find the prompts that can move us to the changes and then work on the skills those changes require.

One day you will love him again

The puppy that you adored, could do no wrong, is now a living horror story. We want to use positive reinforcement, and our mind focuses on the success of what is not happening. But reinforcement attaches itself to something happening, not an absence and cannot select for a multitude of different things that are being reinforced.

Nose Target. No thanks

Nose target is a popular behaviour taught to many dogs, and other animals. It seems easy to teach and have practical application, but it is often not such a pleasant experience for all dogs. There are many other options available that give the same practical benefit, without the unpleasant extremes.

Release cue or stay cue

Many of us begin with teaching sit or down, and this is one of the earliest experiences of training with reinforcement. Is the sit, or down, going to be a terminal behaviour, or a temporary position?

What is important … ?

… when your dog is sick and fearful? If you have a dog who is sick and fearful you can feel lost and alone. The weight of opinion, expectation and information can be overwhelming. What is right? What is true? What is best? Throughout this journey I have allowed my ethics to guide me. The individual who is Merlin is at the heart of every choice I make.

Zip Early Learning

She is a wild running, butterfly-working dog. Or more scientifically: a dog with a compulsive behaviours that responds very fast to arousal and movement in the environment.

Think carefully

We cannot presume a cue is a reinforcer unless we can shape a new behaviour using that cue as the marker. Read carefully. Think carefully. Consider multiple perspectives. Sometimes it seems easier to let someone else do the thinking for you and just copy, but we need to become thoughtful trainers.

Dogs can only behave like dogs

We should not be trying to change dogs, but change the world in which they live. This extract from Every Dog Every Day brings light to the conflict that can sometimes occur between people’s expectations of dog behaviour and the reality – what dog’s actually do.

Are you coasting?

Are we coasting or are we improving? Is time so precious that we cannot invest in doing better? Looking at “Leave it” protocols, which are just another way of saying “no”. If we focus our training around what we don’t want the dog will focus on what to avoid. Focus on what we do want.

The Fade-in Protocol

Even though today we are surrounded by many available protocols for teaching with positive reinforcement, there is still a persistence that a dog should be set-up to make an error. An error is simply the difference between my expectation and the dog’s response. No more “distractions”, but faded-in environments.

How do you know what you don’t know?

The age of trusting the professionals is fading fast. I am not sure anymore what exactly is a professional and the difference between genuine, self-styled and fake? With so much information freely available and shared when we open the gate to “looking for a xyz” we are struggling to recognise authenticity from smart marketing.

Reasons to use a clicker

The concept of “being a clicker trainer” is always going to lead to argument and misunderstanding because it cannot exist alongside the science and technology. It is a “fakery” of our time. The clicker itself is a simple tool that when used in conjunction with technology provides clarity and understanding in teaching.

Approval or attention seeking?

Jumping up is nearly always viewed, by both positive and negative trainers as A Major Sin. It rates near the top of the list of an undesirable behaviour.

A New Puppy. Oh Joy.

Impulse buying the wrong sofa can be rectified if you swallow the expense. Impulse buying a puppy can result in personal grief for you and your family and quite possibly result in a very unhappy future or end the life of that puppy.

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