Author Topic: Time & Teaching A New Skill  (Read 1135 times)

Kyle

  • 2016 Online Seminar Group
  • *****
  • Posts: 306
Time & Teaching A New Skill
« on: August 18, 2016, 10:24:22 AM »
I started this as a "new topic" because it came from a different one and wasn't "relatable". I truly hope Ric doesn't mind, but when Sharon posted I got all excited! (I always get excited when Sharon talks about *training*!  ;D It's just my thing...  ;)) I didn't put it on the Seminar List because I wasn't sure Ric was on it and I wanted to make sure he was aware that I absconded with part of his post!  ;D

You know, Sharon, that I am in total agreement with you that dogs can learn something quite quickly. Even what we (as humans) might think of as quite difficult or even complicated. And, yes, your terminology and mine would be the same, thinking about it in "sessions" rather than weeks.

So, this may just be a "terminology" type issue...combined with how folks train... When I say "how folks train", I'm thinking the (typical) 1 hour group class vs. at home or private stuff. When in a (typical) 1 hour group class, the training is driven by the needs or desires of the group rather than the individual's needs. That's tough on training each individual dog! (That's also why I don't teach group obedience lessons any more. It was too disheartening for *me*.  :'()

Ric's post (the piece I've quoted), along with an issue I'm having with some of my herding students, just has me thinking this may also be a "human type" learning problem.  ;) I just drug out my faded old t-shirt with my favorite Sharon Nelson trademarked saying:
"TRAIN a behavior
EXPOSE the behavior
PROOF the behavior
EXPECT the behavior to happen every time
TRUST what you have trained, don't question it."
(I'm gonna make myself a post-it note of this and stick it on the mirror in the motel at Champs, so *I* can read it every morning as a reminder!!!  ;D)
I'm thinking the *human* problem parts are the "expect" and "trust" parts...at least that's where my students seem to be having the *greatest* issues! The dogs know their stuff, they learned it quickly and have it down pat. But the owners just plain old don't believe it in their heads and hearts and continue to doubt. The dogs *feel* the doubt and therefore don't trust themselves or what they've been taught and continue to question...because the owners continue to *question*.  ;D I'm thinkin'...the owners need those several or more "weeks" (a completely *human* time frame, not a dog's time frame) to feel somewhat OK about the new trained behavior???? Could that be part of it????

Anyway, just contemplating the many components of this...hmmm...

-Kyle


A couple of my thoughts:

Many dogs, including one of mine, need some time before they can offer new performances in the trial ring.  I have heard many trainers say that there is a delay between teaching a skill and seeing the skill present itself in the trial ring.  In my experience, I see it in about 8 weeks.  I have heard other trainers say 12 weeks, some 4 weeks.  So I would need to be completed teaching the skill prior to 8 weeks out, in order to have a reliable expectation of my dog performing it. 
--Ric Bonner

This could be a really interesting topic for a training conversation! I don't know if you, Ric, are on the Seminar List, but if you are, maybe you'd be willing to transfer this over to there??  :)

Thanks,
Kyle

I know Kyle that we talk about it in "sessions" and I expect and see it all the time that dogs can learn what we are talking about in three sessions, so basically two weeks.  I know in seminars, they have it perfect by the third day and are trial ready.  We see it seminar after seminar and dogs go right to trials and perform beautifully.  All trainers are different.  I am much more of the "more on" and "move forward" in your training and don't bore the dog by repeating what he already knows when learning something new.  I do very little "drilling".

You have seen us start something new and have it perfected by the second day, the third day for sure.  I do believe that it is about the number of sessions trained, not the length of time.  But then I never bought any of the same thing when I was doing obedience.  And I loved my obedience scores also.

I push, too much for some, but I like to see the dog challenged without over pressuring them. 

But that is me and I do understand that there are many other methods and they work great too!!

Sharon
Kyle
Leona Valley, CA

ricbonner

  • **
  • Posts: 87
Re: Time & Teaching A New Skill
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2016, 06:12:54 PM »
I don't mind any constructive discussion.  What does concern me is the assumption that something is wrong.  And calling it a "Human Problem."  There is no problem, at least in my case.  All dogs are different.  Some dogs have issues beyond agility that they need to overcome.  And agility is a great tool to help them.  Some dogs need to be given time to become comfortable and "bloom".  Some dogs don't need that and good for them.  But not every dog is a super confident expressive dog, and those that are may not be that way all the time.  And I think it somewhat unhealthy to have that type of expectation of every dog all the time.

I see nothing wrong with being sensitive to the dogs need for time to process new knowledge and skill before expressing that new skill in a higher stress/higher excitement environment.  In fact I highly recommend knowing the dog's needs in terms of well being across all three dimensions - physical, mental, and social/emotional - when requesting performance.  In my limited experience, I have found that if I honor the dog's needs and provide them the space and time and support to develop in their own way, then I avoid a lot of lingering stress related responses and issues.  And when I respect the dog in that way, they know it and show it back.  The dog is happier, the handler is happier, the relationship is better, the performance is better, and improvement just happens.

My earlier post was just sharing what I know of my dog and she has in the past needed about 8 weeks after learning a new skill to express that at a trial.  That is not a hypothesis or a training rule.  That is an observation of her over the last 9 years.  That is who she is.  We would learn a new thing in class, and let me say she learns very quick, 3 attempts is usually enough for her to understand something and she is an ace at problem solving, but then 8 weeks later she would start delivering it at a trial.  Once I saw that pattern and recognized it, I started using it to our advantage.  I learned that any amount of extra practice or drills or exercises were not productive.  We would learn a skill, then wait for it to cook, and sure enough it would show up on schedule at trials.  I focused more on teaching instead of training.  I learned that if I built an understanding in her mind, then backed off and gave her time to relax and let the knowledge bake, she would deliver.  Of course now after all these years, there isn't as much new learning, but more of applying existing knowledge in new ways or with more environmental challenge.

I started out with a dog that loved running in class but was prone to shutting down or avoiding at any slight mistake or boom or bang at a trial.  We had a big hill to overcome in terms of excitement and ring stress.  And it was with time, and patience, and experience, and celebrations, and yes the right amount of challenge and expectations that we've come as far as we have.  It is important to me to not only get the performance, but to get the performance with a balanced happy joyfulness in the dog as well.

I am sure there are lots of dogs and trainers who can get proofed performances in a very short time.  I think that's wonderful.  But there are also dogs and trainers who can get proofed performances in a little bit more time.  Or even a lot more time.  I think that is wonderful too, and I don't believe that is automatically symptomatic of a problem.

My apologies again for length.

And FYI, my other younger dog is a slower learner, but he'll perform anywhere immediately after learning something or maybe even before he really learns it.  And that's who he is.

Sharon Nelson

  • Mother NADAC
  • **
  • Posts: 5856
Re: Time & Teaching A New Skill
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2016, 06:28:53 PM »
I don't mind any constructive discussion.  What does concern me is the assumption that something is wrong.  And calling it a "Human Problem."  There is no problem, at least in my case.  All dogs are different.  Some dogs have issues beyond agility that they need to overcome.  And agility is a great tool to help them.  Some dogs need to be given time to become comfortable and "bloom".  Some dogs don't need that and good for them.  But not every dog is a super confident expressive dog, and those that are may not be that way all the time.  And I think it somewhat unhealthy to have that type of expectation of every dog all the time.

I see nothing wrong with being sensitive to the dogs need for time to process new knowledge and skill before expressing that new skill in a higher stress/higher excitement environment.  In fact I highly recommend knowing the dog's needs in terms of well being across all three dimensions - physical, mental, and social/emotional - when requesting performance.  In my limited experience, I have found that if I honor the dog's needs and provide them the space and time and support to develop in their own way, then I avoid a lot of lingering stress related responses and issues.  And when I respect the dog in that way, they know it and show it back.  The dog is happier, the handler is happier, the relationship is better, the performance is better, and improvement just happens.

My earlier post was just sharing what I know of my dog and she has in the past needed about 8 weeks after learning a new skill to express that at a trial.  That is not a hypothesis or a training rule.  That is an observation of her over the last 9 years.  That is who she is.  We would learn a new thing in class, and let me say she learns very quick, 3 attempts is usually enough for her to understand something and she is an ace at problem solving, but then 8 weeks later she would start delivering it at a trial.  Once I saw that pattern and recognized it, I started using it to our advantage.  I learned that any amount of extra practice or drills or exercises were not productive.  We would learn a skill, then wait for it to cook, and sure enough it would show up on schedule at trials.  I focused more on teaching instead of training.  I learned that if I built an understanding in her mind, then backed off and gave her time to relax and let the knowledge bake, she would deliver.  Of course now after all these years, there isn't as much new learning, but more of applying existing knowledge in new ways or with more environmental challenge.

I started out with a dog that loved running in class but was prone to shutting down or avoiding at any slight mistake or boom or bang at a trial.  We had a big hill to overcome in terms of excitement and ring stress.  And it was with time, and patience, and experience, and celebrations, and yes the right amount of challenge and expectations that we've come as far as we have.  It is important to me to not only get the performance, but to get the performance with a balanced happy joyfulness in the dog as well.

I am sure there are lots of dogs and trainers who can get proofed performances in a very short time.  I think that's wonderful.  But there are also dogs and trainers who can get proofed performances in a little bit more time.  Or even a lot more time.  I think that is wonderful too, and I don't believe that is automatically symptomatic of a problem.

My apologies again for length.

And FYI, my other younger dog is a slower learner, but he'll perform anywhere immediately after learning something or maybe even before he really learns it.  And that's who he is.

Excellent input!

Sharon
Sharon
In-Sync-Agility

Kyle

  • 2016 Online Seminar Group
  • *****
  • Posts: 306
Re: Time & Teaching A New Skill
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2016, 10:16:40 PM »
Ric,

I'm sorry if you got the impression that I felt anything with you, your dog or your teaching/training was "wrong" or that you have a problem. Whatever works for you and your dog(s) is great.

Once again, it's most likely me not understanding your terminology, perhaps due to geography or different teaching/training styles but I am curious, and would like to better understand what you mean when you say a dog would be "expressing a new skill" and "start delivering it at a trial". I'm not quite sure where on the dog's learning curve each of those are at? I'd take a big guessing leap and say the "expressing" it would be a dog would give it a try and the "delivering" it would be that the dog has mastered the skill? Am I kind of close? They are just terms I'm not familiar with...could be I'm just OLD and not in step with the new stuff!  :)  I'm also curious as to what you feel is the difference between the terms teaching and training? Once again, it's probably because I'm old and live in the sticks that I haven't kept up with certain word changes that always seem to be happening in the doggie world...

One thing I do know after many, many years teaching dog obedience classes - those typical 8 week courses (OK, so mine were 8 weeks, I'm hearing that 6 is more the norm nowadays) - that at about 5 weeks, many dogs suffered through total brain farts. We'd be working on stay and come and the dogs wouldn't have a *clue* what sit was! It's kind of funny, actually. It's like a doggie version of a bell curve! :D Is this what you see during your dog's "cooking" and "baking" time? (Those are great terms by the way.)

Thanks,
Kyle
Kyle
Leona Valley, CA

TheQuestKnight

  • *****
  • Posts: 173
  • I'm a Marxist: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, Gummo
Re: Time & Teaching A New Skill
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2016, 07:19:23 AM »
One thing I do know after many, many years teaching dog obedience classes - those typical 8 week courses (OK, so mine were 8 weeks, I'm hearing that 6 is more the norm nowadays) - that at about 5 weeks, many dogs suffered through total brain farts. We'd be working on stay and come and the dogs wouldn't have a *clue* what sit was! It's kind of funny, actually. It's like a doggie version of a bell curve! :D Is this what you see during your dog's "cooking" and "baking" time? (Those are great terms by the way.)

Thanks,
Kyle

Hi Kyle!

Funny you should mention "doggie brain farts" along with Ric's "cooking & baking time". MANY, MANY years ago, our obedience instructors referred to that 5th week "absence of memory" as the time the dog's brain was shifting those learned neural connections from short-term to long-term memory.  We were told that the dog's brain wasn't able to accomplish that transition as smoothly as our human brains can.  I never learned if that theory was actually supported by hard science or simply conclusions drawn from experience; but it sure made sense, because around the start of the 6th week, those skills re-appeared just as magically as they had disappeared!

Sort of on the subject..........it has been our personal experience that almost every dog person with even a little bit of training knowledge uses a teach, proof, expect, trust progression in their training of their dog, even though they may not realize it or use the same terminology.  However, we have found, at least in our circumstances and it is our opinion, that far too many folks start "formal" training for skills WAY TOO SOON!  We firmly believe in basic household obedience, respect and manners; but until our dogs have been with us for 18-24 months, we don't do any competition style training with them.  Almost all of our dogs have been rescues; and most have been of an age where they were physically mature and could begin that sort of training.  However, they had not lived with us and our other dogs long enough to TRUST our other dogs completely; and to completely TRUST us, for that matter. 

.............and there isn't a timetable for that trust bond to be established, either, the 18-24 month time frame just seems to work REALLY WELL for US!

...............and as for teaching vs. training.  Personally, I HATE "training" my dogs, I prefer to teach them, even though i'm guilty of using those two words interchangeably.  To me, training reminds me of the military.................where one is "spoon-fed" information and not encouraged to think, merely to respond; and where thinking is discouraged by anyone other than a superior officer.  I teach my dogs that for anything I want them to learn, they ALWAYS have options; but some choices are better than others..................and the better choices that they make, the better the reward for doing so!  Currently, we live with 2 BCs and a Doxie/Chow Chow mix.....................all free-thinkers who operate on a continuum that runs between mischievous and disobedient because it's FUN! <G>

We have always had above-average obedience and agility dogs; but they were NEVER "perfect"!  They had their moments where they "took over" and claimed center stage.............often to our dismay; but always to spectator laughs, hoots & howls, so it was never "bad".

I believe that teaching permits your dog to really express their personality and to do things correctly; but with their style.  It also acknowledges that sometime we will fail miserably, while other times we will excel; but most of the time we'll be somewhere in-between.

I've seen way too many trainers expect perfection all of the time...................the obedience handler that gets upset with their dog over a 199.5 score in a major event because a 200 won it all.................the agility handler that won't pick up a second place rosette because their dog was 0.03 seconds off of the first place time.....................

I guess that I don't feel that trainers have that much fun, and that they experience way too much stress.  Teachers, on the other hand, seem to have the ability to celebrate the smallest successes and build on them!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In some cases, terminology does influence perspective...................and I believe that trainer  and teacher are two such terms......................

Sorry for digressing and rambling; but those are probably the two things that I do best!

Hugs & wags,

Al, Barb, Pelli, Katie & Lily in OH
 
Castle Camelot: Al, Barb, Dred, Gael & Pellinore . . . and from The Bridge Grill & Pub,  Kali, Flurry, Promise, Chico, Romulus, Trix and Tony.

Re: Time & Teaching A New Skill
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2016, 09:31:25 AM »
I will add my thought to all of this even though I am relatively "new" to agility. 

My cattle dog, Lily, is a very quick learner, but you can't repeat a whole lot with her in one session.  I can do something MAYBE 3 times but usually only twice in one session.  If I do more, she shuts down on me because she feels that she is doing something wrong.   I could reward and tell her she is good, etc. but it makes no difference.  If I repeat, she gets frustrated because she can't figure out WHY we are doing the same thing again.  I even have this issue at times with BETA format in trials.  She KNOWS we are doing the same course so she will sometimes, in her brain, think, "I must have done this wrong so lets try it this way this time".  At least that is my take, maybe she just figures she did it once this way, so lets do something different this time.  With Beta, I usually am forced to handle her differently on the second run just so she gets a different view from me and doesn't think it is the same exact course.  I have to attempt to outsmart that girl any way I can.  While she will usually "learn" a new behavior in 2 or 3 tries, it takes me a longer time to get what I would consider "trial performance" with her on anything new.  When I say that, I don't mean a perfect performance, it means that I believe she is mentally able to handle that performance in the ring without getting frustrated or shutting down.  When she learns something new, she is very methodical and slow going through the motions.  She will stop and "think" about it to make sure she is doing it correctly.  Once she has the behavior down pat, she then has confidence in herself and picks up the speed.  This is one of the reasons that I stayed in the lower classes with her until she had her superior titles.  It gave her the opportunity to learn what she needed to at her pace without the frustrations of more difficult courses and tighter times.    This was especially true in chances. 

My mix breed, Toto, is just the opposite of Lily.  I can repeat with him over and over, but it takes him more time to "get it".  He is not a quick learner and doesn't always understand what is expected of him.  I have to really break everything into baby steps with him.  I have to build the performance expected of him over the course of many weeks.  Once he has learned the performance though, he is confident enough that I can take it to the trial.  Again, he won't be perfect, but he also won't shut down.  His biggest weakness is distance work at this point.  He seems to lack confidence and it shows.  I am sure that the lightbulb will come on soon as I am starting to see small markers of him "getting it".  Once of the reasons that I kept him at the lower levels through superiors is to work on the distance.  I know that he loves jumpers and tunnelers courses.  I would begin to work some distance on those courses to build his confidence in me working away from him on those relatively easy courses. 

My newest dog, Calypso, is still a puppy at 1 year old.  She is very smart, very fast and very confident, BUT, being a puppy, that puppy brain often kicks in.  I am not sure that it will ever really change either based on her fun-loving personality.  Right now, she loves agility, but to get her to do it in a bigger ring is a challenge.  When she is training, if she is not sure of what she is supposed to be doing, she will offer behaviors that she is 100% confident in.  This means, she may run to a tunnel, or the A-frame knowing that she KNOWS how to do those.  This also means, that at this point, we do small sequences and break it down into baby steps.  I know you do this with all puppies, but based on what I am seeing, I belive that this is how she is going to learn overall.  She is very quick to learn, but it seems to take her a while to incorporate it into a comfort zone for her to be able to pair that perfomance with other things.  An example is the A-frame.  I have one in my backyard.  It took her a very short period of time for her to be comfortable with it.  Now she does it at will when we are outside, but to pair that performance with a jump or a hoop at the beginning and end takes a longer time for her to comprehend.  I am extremely happy to get 3-4 obstacles in a row at this point.  As I said, she is still a puppy so it will be very interesting to see how she matures.  My guess is, the first few times she ever sees competition, she will be "amusing" to watch!   ::)

Audri, Lily, Cee Cee and Toto, Calypso