I drove 5 hours yesterday to go to a training day by Underdog Training. They're based in Melbourne, but do these workshops all over the country for rescue organisations.
If I had known it was going to be that good, I would have tried to get some other dog owners from here to come with me.
It was a full on day. Lots of information, delivered very fast. She covered lots of basic stuff, but also assumed the attendees had some knowledge of training principles.
I'm still processing and will have to go through my notes again, but one interesting thing I learnt is that phasing out rewards is not a desired goal. She said she still enforces her terrier's recall 7/10 and her ACD x 4/10! And when I asked, she confirmed that she still calls them regularly only to reward and release too.
Lots of people would find that demotivating, to have to carry treats forever, but it does make sense that your dog would continue to get paid for the work they do.
I also learnt that I really need to use food more to my advantage by feeding most of the dogs' meals as treats, particularly when I want to train out unwanted behaviours. But harder when you feed raw though...
If the trainer's verbal explanations wouldn't have convinced me that she knew what she was talking about, the 2 dogs she brought certainly did. I don't think I've ever met 2 more well behaved, happy dogs. They snoozed in their crate for most of the day, barely looking up at any noise, looking totally relaxed. When they were used as test dogs in the practical demonstration, she put them in a drop and they didn't move or react, even when other dogs lunged at them. Though the older dog did kind of move from his spot by having a good roll on the grass, which wasn't strictly doing what he was told, but very cute to watch.
In contrast, some of the participants that brought dogs, their own or fosters, showed a total lack of understanding of the basics of conditioning. Some of these dogs got quite stressed/excited by the environment. There was lots of yanking the lead, but not once did the alternative behaviours that they offered again and again get noticed, let alone rewarded in any way.
So now I'm going to read my notes and think about how to train Banjo to deal better with situations that make her anxious or over excited. I realised she's not as happy as she could be and I'm determined to change that!