Repetition Repetition Repetition

Jean is proving to be a wonderous mentor…she knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to dog training. It’s been tested on thousands of dogs through the Academy teaching.

She gave this advice in several of her books and in tonight’s Academy webinar..Repetition Repetition Repetition. Dogs don’t understand a command after 1, 2 or even 12 reps. It takes hundreds of reps. And we as dog trainers enjoy it! Dog owners…not so much.

We dog trainers are there to train the dog not make mini me trainers out of owners! We need to remember that owners are pushed for time and dogs are great discriminators…they do what works for them. Behaviour in a nutshell.

***DOGS DO WHAT WORKS FOR THEM***

That’s it…So the puppy which does so well at puppy class but is the devil in disguise at home isn’t trying to be obtuse or embarrass his owner; he has simply learned he behaves one way at school and one way at home. I recall my children being the same at one point. Angels at school, noisy monkeys at home!

So when a client exclaims ‘it’s not working’ ‘I tried everything’ it is more likely to be a repetition fail. You gotta keep going until you get it right. Like learning to drive, play a musical instrument, a second language or in my case learning how to touch people without freezing or freaking. If you want it or need it that badly you’ll do what it takes right?

Make this your mantra…Repetition Repetition Repetition.

Ok so not dog but my cat likes to do what works for him too

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Cha cha changes

Please hum the tune of Changes by David Bowie while reading the title.

Me again. I’m trying to make my life a bit more simple. Currently I run the training from one website and the pet-sitting from my other site www.verypets.co.uk

Sooo without wishing to be a pain in the rear, I’m gong to ask everyone to bear with me while changes happen. Charley at Labradoodlez.com is working on a new logo for me and I’m starting to shift things over to verypets. I’ll have to get new workwear printed and stationary re-done and change logo’s on the free stuff etc etc but long term it should make life easier.

Basically I don’t just work with dogs and I don’t train just dogs! Cats, chickens, hamsters, donkeys, rabbits even pigs have been trained by little old me. Why not have an umbrella company which prospective clients can look at all the services and make their choice rather than sending them to trawl through another website (nice as it is)!

I’m looking forward to being back under one roof, it’s come full circle. I started out like this all those years ago…my eclectic brain got the better of me and chose to experiment and split the business and thus trainabull was born. Only there is some confusion as whether I train bulls (think cows) or balls (think round objects). So anyway here I am again at yet another crossroads making a decision which will cost me more than budget allows and may change my mind. Again.

Happy Jubilee everyone, hurrah, pip pip and all that.

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Cats and Dogs

My cat often comes out with us on local walks. Does anyone else’s do this? We get some funny looks and the occasional person tells us their cat used to do the same. What upsets me though is when children tease my cat; one little girl was hissing at him last week and my daughter told me about two boys who exclaimed they couldn’t coax him into their garden now. Why would they want to do that? Another young boy tried chasing him by riding up to my cat on his bike then screaming at him! WTF! You hear people say things loud enough for you to hear but they rarely say it to your face. Rude.

Admittedly my cat (his name is Lego) can be annoying at times…he demands his bowl be topped up with food even though there is only a tiny bit of the bowl visible underneath the cat food already in it. He will demand to be let out of the front door even though the back door is wide open. He pounces on you as you walk up and down the stairs or if you ignore him while he is making one of his numerous demands. Even my dogs, Bull Terriers of friendly sweet disposition are under his thumb. if said kitty has been in a fight, the stress it creates causes him to bat one of them if they dare to pass by him. If he is drinking from the water bowl they will form an orderly queue behind him. If he is sat by a doorway they will wait for him to move first. Yet you often hear people say cats and dogs are natural enemies. I’m confident my dogs would not hurt the cat. But I’m less than confident about the people in my neighbourhood.

Lego has an excellent recall. I love it when we are a little ahead of him and he yowls that we are too far away so I turn and call him, he runs toward us then right between the dogs while they are on lead. They don’t fuss or get excited. Sometimes if off lead one of them will be really playful and try to invite him to play with them. He doesn’t.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has such a cat!

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Bad times sad times and timing

This weekend just gone I was due to give a question and answer surgery at a big vegan event called Vegfest. It had support from Holly Hedge where I’m behaviour and training advisor and other rescues as well. Now, anyone who knows me will know that this is not my biggest strong point – public speaking – yet I was looking forward to going and see where it took me. Scary times yes. But choosing to man up I went with the notion of ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’

The trouble is, unforeseen circumstances meant I had to cancel at the last minute and tried not to get stressed enough to go into Aspie meltdown. Those are not good times. I won’t go into the why’s and wherefore’s here but suffice to say I let people down…I may have missed an opportunity to gain new clients or at the very least extra publicity. I often find myself faced with a difficult decision being a business person and all; do I risk making an idiot of myself and go to an event where I am expected to network and talk to other humans or do I not go and wonder if just this time I may have kept my condition under control and actually had a nice time? It wasn’t the problem this time, other gremlins were afoot.

Sh!t happens though, we have to deal with it and move on, that’s life right! So this blog post is  both an apology and a timely reminder that no matter how carefully you plan ahead or cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s, life has an odd habit of pinching on you on the bottom when you least expect it. A good training plan however, is a must and should be infallible, but that’s another blog post!

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People whispering in a dog training world

All my life I have been exposed to hatred, ignorance, fear, violence, revulsion, bullying and abuse. ALL my life. I’m in my early forties now and still naive to the ways of mankind. Partly because of my Aspergers, partly because I am slightly disjointed from society.

Like many others I find myself drawn to social networking sites and yet even online you are not safe from scaremongering and petty backstabbing. There is only so much you can avoid by blocking or unfriending/unfollowing folks. As far as I am aware none of it has been directly aimed at me, although I have recently been party to a phenomenon known as ‘guilty by association’.

There are many whom, it would appear, feel it is ok to disparage others without first gathering the right information before making slanderous judgements. There are some who attack others from behind a computer screen and some who speak about others in hushed tones during private messaging, not bothering to find out the truth.

Others seem to find it prudent to jump on band wagons and mob mentality is alive well even within the dog training fraternity and in animal rescue. The dog training industry itself is heavily divided, with often disastrous results for the dog owning public, as if it all wasn’t confusing enough already! As for the animal rescue scene, I have been appalled at the treatment of some involved by people old enough to know better.

What confuses me more than anything as knowing how passionately professionals feel about their profession, how they get caught up in the waves of revolution when asked to consider a new method or a new technique is launched or dishonoured then why can’t that enthusiasm, that drive be used for the greater good instead?

If we all work together for the common ground of helping people achieve better obedience and greater control over troubling behaviours then surely it makes sense to pool resources, knowledge and experience. Can you imagine what we could achieve?

If bad practice is driven out of the industry and people learn how to communicate better, learn how to teach and become the kind of trainer they want to be without needing positive punishment this would have a ripple effect on the whole world. A good kind of ripple; one that ensures that every dog owner and every dog gets the right training, and trainers get the right training too.

Alas, I know my point is moot. Being human, people will always argue their way is the right way even when overwhelming evidence shows the contrary. Gossiping and bullying will never stop. Bad methods will live on. Shame on those who point the finger or are too blinkered or afraid to be open to new suggestions. Shame on those who force others to make uncomfortable and sometimes life-changing decisions. Shame on those who seek to exact ridicule and threatening behaviours on those trying their best or working hard to achieve their potential.

I won’t let anyone stand in my way. I won’t let anyone drag me down to their level and I won’t let anyone use my naivety against me ever again. I have been through too much and worked too hard to allow anyone to take it away from me. So say what you like. Think what you like. About anyone you like, even me. Just remember slander and libel are crimes and karma gets you in the end. My integrity is pure and assured. Is yours?

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Quadrants: the cornerstone to training

My time with the Academy for Dog Trainers may be have only been a short while thus far, but man have I learned so much already! Including that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did and that my brain is quite good at thinking in quadrants; something I never even thought possible! The syllabus is taught by breaking down everything into easy to assimilate bite sized chunks, therefore learning is easier and highly effective. Awesome stuff and Jean is a fantastic critical thinker and mentor, nothing is too much trouble for her.

So, what do I mean by quadrants? They are the cornerstone to training it would seem, something I already did know on a certain level but the training the Academy gives you makes you see everything in quadrants! Honestly, I am taking examples from everything including my own behaviour in everyday life. It all made my head explode at first as I’m so used to feeling bad about using the words punishment and negative when applied to behaviour but in order to use Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) you have to think in quadrants! They are how you decide if a behaviour has increased or decreased and how.

Reinforcement & Punishment. Negative and Positive.

R+  R-

P+  P-

Positive and Negative Reinforcement increase a behaviour. Positive and negative Punishment decrease a behaviour. Simples.

Over the last few years there has been an enormous movement in attitude toward the positive reinforcement part of the quadrant with trainers saying they only teach positive reinforcement methods. I included myself naively in that. The dread evoked from using the words negative and punishment smacked of old school Alpha methods and aversive (force) training. It’s simply not like that though. If you withhold a treat from a pet because he didn’t sit for you on cue that’s not positive, that is negative. It’s not wrong, it’s part of the quadrant and that is science based fact!

The way to deal with getting your head around using the words negative and punishment in training is to think of them as the mathematical symbols, plus and minus. Plus means add and minus means take away, right? So if you increase a behaviour it’s on the plus side of the quadrant and if you decrease a behaviour it’s on the minus side of the quadrant!

If you decrease a behaviour it’s been punished, if you increase a behaviour it’s been reinforced.

So now to help me decide if a behaviour has increased or decreased I use the quadrants, ask some questions about the behaviour and it’s consequence (the outcome of the behaviour). Thank you Jean Donaldson, the Academy is truly, the Harvard of dog training!

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Awesome news! Scholarship won

As some of you may be aware, I am keen on continuing and improving my knowledge and skill base by educating myself. There are only two courses I wish to complete and a possible third. One is the BSc in Animal Behaviour, the Roger Abrantes course. The other is the Jean Donaldson Academy for Dog Trainers course.

I spent 7 days composing my submission forms. I lost my completed forms twice. Once due to a computer error and once to human error. After discovering the solution I finally finished and sent off my forms, breathing once more after being so stressed and upset at losing my efforts twice. I knew I stood a chance, but I never thought I would be lucky enough to be chosen.

Well, guess what? I was chosen! I was welcomed to the Academy by Jean and I spent the next few days on cloud 9. What an awesome opportunity to learn from one of the greatest names in the industry and gain a decent qualification! I cannot thank Jean and the scholarship team enough, I’m so grateful as I would never have been able to afford the course otherwise.

My blog will be updated about the course, it will be good for me to chart my progress or regress. As an Aspie I am a little worried about my brain not being able to cope at a higher level of study but I have got this far in my life I’m not giving up now, my career is too important to me. It may actually be fortuitous to be doing a FdSc first, giving me good preparation for the intense BSc via the Ethology Institute. I shall find out in time.

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