Instructor: Amy Cook
Sport behaviors are too important for you to not have a precise plan for teaching them! While we can certainly "wing it" sometimes in life and with some behaviors, if you want precision and clear understanding in your dog, you have to get specific and... scientific! In this course, inspired by Amy's time at Bob Bailey's famous chicken camps, you'll learn how to tighten up your technique in shaping behaviors, to make plans that will work and not send you into the weeds, and to assess whether your plan was a good one as you review your training videos carefully! You'll learn to observe your dog more closely, to know exactly when you need to click to catch that exact behavior (and when not to!), and you'll consciously create CERs (Conditioned Emotional Responses) in your dog so that you get the emotion you want. In Bob's words, you will learn to "think, then you will plan, and then you will do!"
This is a companion class to Denise Fenzi's "The Art of Training: Developing Confidence and Flow" that will run in next term, and they are designed to run sequentially. It is not required that you take them both, but in my class you'll learn to think carefully through what you're doing and behave precisely according to the best scientific principles, embracing all those little details that help us communicate exactly what we mean to, and in her class you'll learn how to expand past that, finding your flow and knowing what to leave behind as you engage in your partnership with your dog!
Next session starts: February 1, 2018Registration starts: January 22, 2018Registration ends: February 15, 2018
Registration will begin at 10:00am PDT.
For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Silver: 25 students, Bronze: unlimited.
SILVER LEVEL PILOT PROJECT - In addition to asking GENERAL clarification questions about the class lecture materials, silver students will now have the opportunity to submit two short videos, one minute each, for critique and review. You may submit two questions. Each question MUST have a one minute video attached so the instructor can actually answer a question that they can see. The question must relate to a topic in the class and the video must be a demo of the question. Please see the discussion forum for a detailed explanation - feel free to sign up at bronze, read the explanation, and then come back here to upgrade to silver if that interests you, and if space is available.
If you are interested in a bronze level subscription, you can sign up at any time during the registration period.
Week 1: Observing your learner: Do you know what you're looking for? Identifying your strengths and limitations, as well as those of your learner, and learning to improve your observation skills!
Week 2: Reinforcement: Timing, rate and criteria. Do you know what each one should be? What makes a criteria shift fair? Learning what jumps are too big, too small, and the effect of each.
Week 3: Setting up a great training session: Do you have a clearly-defined goal? A specific, realistic plan? You have to think everything through before you pick up that clicker!
Week 4: Pavlov is always sitting on your shoulder: Are you creating a correct Conditioned Emotional Response (CER)? Separate from it being a by-product of training and just coming along for the ride, could you create a positive CER and recognize it on its own? What about recognizing negative ones?
Week 5: Click for action, feed for position: Are you thinking about what happens between the click and the reward? Using rewards to further your training goals and increase understanding in your learner.
Week 6: ABC and adding cues: Antecedents, behavior and consequences, and and when to start naming behaviors. Should you have a cue for the shaping procedure itself? Can you have more than one behavior being shaped at a time?
I highly suggest that if you want to take a gold spot that you have some experience with shaping a dog via clicker training. You don't have to be amazingly experienced in it, but you should have tried it enough to know what its basics are and your dog should have an idea what you're doing when you try to shape something. It's ok if you struggle, but I don't suggest you try this class as your introduction to the idea of shaping behaviors in dogs. We will use shaping as a way of practicing the principles of the class!
The biggest lesson any of us can take away from chicken camp and from Bob Bailey in particular is that if we want to progress in an efficient manner that promotes clarity and therefore kindness to your learner, you have to have a plan that you think through ahead of time. First you think, then you plan, then you do, and then... you review!
Planning what you will do, explicitly, minimizes some of the troubles we can get ourselves into when shaping. While I'm sure none of us do everything "wrong", and no one session will have all of the pitfalls, a good plan means minimzing what is characteristic for you, or just the garden variety mistakes we can all make by being human.
What are some of our top contenders? Well, we can get stuck on one criterion for too long, we can drop our rate of reinforcement, we can habitually click late or click objects, we can go on too long, and we can start clicking for new criteria if the dog happens to offer something we like better. Those are the biggies, but you'll find that you have some idiosyncratic ones as well. If you're not sure what they are, start with the basics and see what you get, and then we review and revise!
Every good plan starts with some extended thinking. You have an end goal in sight, say a long go out with a sit at the end, or a formal obedience retrieve, but a complex behvior will require a lot of little steps individually trained, with a chaining up going on at some point. Where will you start? What is a good entry point? What behaviors do you definitely not want to see bundled in there (barking, anyone?)? So, you need to pick just one small piece for this one session.
If you don't have a formal sport goal, you still need an end point for a behavior in mind, and at the steps it will take to get there. The more you plan and break things into chunks, the sooner you'll get there and the easier it will be on both of you!
Think of this like the task of writing a book. You don't just start at the beginning and write through to the end, right? You make up some chapters, you arrange them in a logical sequence for now, being willing to modify, and then you take each chapter and write an outline of the points you want to hit, the path you're taking. Then, and only then, do you flesh out the document with paragraphs. Right now, you might be planning a paragraph. :)
You also have strengths and limitations to contend with! Remember your first exercise in class? Who are you, really? What training elements are difficult for you and what are straightforward? Is it better to have a prop to help you, or a lure? What about your dog? Is she a novice? A frantic offerer? Slow and watchful? You will have to write a plan for the real team, not the ideal team you know you can be one day, or that other dog you're way better at shaping because she is slow enough for you to watch, or fast enough that you keep your RoR up. You need a plan that works for you, the you you are right now, and the you you are in concert with this particular dog. There is no way any plan I could write would work for you, nor could any plan I have for my own dog fit your circumstances. Each plan is a highly individual thing.
Ok, so you have your "higher level" planning in mind and your goals and larger variables considered. Now for some practical details!
Do you have a good environment to train in? Can you see everything you need to see? Maybe you need a mirror to check in with as your dog leaves you so you can see where he's looking? Maybe you'd like to restrict all other distractions in the area so you both can concentrate? Maybe you'll need to be low, so you have a small chair to use. How about a clean floor? Does your dog start sniffing the ground when you make a mistake? It might be nice if he doesn't find extra treats. Will you need a prop? Will your other dog begin barking when he sees it's not his turn, and does your learner dog care? Take the time you need to have the right environment that will help you both concentrate and so that you can see what you need to see.
How long should your session should be? Considering that you want a high RoR, short sessions really will yield a lot of repetitions for you. What you don't want is to go long enough that things can need changing and you don't notice. 30 seconds is a good place to start, with individual modifications for slow moving animals. If you find that's not a good number over time, you can revise this part of the plan, but start with a very short session to keep yourself on track with your goals. Plan to use a timer, and stick to it!
You can also make this a reinforcement based session, where you plan to do 15 reinforcements and then stop. Count out 15, and have no more available. End your session and do your review at that point, rather than when the timer goes off.
What will you accept as correct in this first session? Let's say you were free shaping the down. You would accept a full down of course, but you also would accept any bending of any legs? Maybe any bending of any two legs at the same time, knowing they'd come in pairs anyway? Oh, but what about what the head does? Do heads go first when they lay down? That's something you should know, so plan on watching your learner enough to know them ahead of time. If you're shaping a cone target from 10 feet away, what will you accept in this first session? Be specific. You'll accept any instance of nose pointed in the general region of the cone. You'll accept any looking at the cone. You'll accept any forward movement in a straight line to the cone that is in the range between just one step to a distance of three feet. You wil identify this as having happened by looking at the nose and eyes of the stationary dog, and of the legs (or whatever tells your personal eye best) of the moving dog. If the dog happens to walk quickly and gets further than three feet before you click you will accept that, but you will not make any deviations from this criteria plan in this one session.
But there will be more sessions. Do you have a rough sketch of the pieces you need?
Once you have clicked, how will you feed? Everything that happens between the click and the swallowing of the treat is potentially going to help you toward your final goal or get in the way, so you might as well use it mindfully and have a plan for it. You may not know at the outset exactly what will work best, but you plan to do *something* and then check how it's working and modify as needed. Will you take action between the click and the treat alone or will you also add some small influence after the feeding? Will that be helpful to you? Will you need a reset cookie to get your dog back to begin again or can they repeat from where they are?
How will you stop? Can you pick up your interaction object, or place your dog on a mat in a downstay, or give them something to chew on or somewhere to go and not have it be so abrupt that they're left hanging, staring at you? Short sessions for dog that want to keep going are hard, so what will you do to avoid trouble?
Your goal this week is to think about what you want to teach, to make a plan, and then to do it. And then to revise it and start all over.
First step? Write up a plan and post it. We'll fine tune that and make sure it's reasonable before you do it. Then you will do it and video yourself. Then you and I will evaluate whether you actually did what you planned or if you deviated, and if the plan was a good one to keep wtih or if it needs adjusting now that it's been tried. We make the adjustments, and you do it again and see what happened.