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Thread: What is in a training plan?

  1. #1

    Default What is in a training plan?

    Some of my notes from a seminar...

    Often we hear a lot of advice on how to manage a behaviour or what to do when X happens, but there are a couple more things to consider than than just applying a training method you read about or hear about. This is focused on dog-dog interaction issues, but are all still good things to consider for tackling any fear, frustration, overexcitement issue.

    Minimise stress in training – We can’t get rid of stress because that’s the whole point. The dog needs to be exposed to triggers to learn, but if he’s over-stressed then he learns nothing. You could have a very effective strategy, great timing, and end up with it not working because they’re just too stressed to learn and pay attention. If they get explosive then you know they’re too stressed. If they're mad for food and they won't take food, they're too stressed. One way to minimise stress is to create distance. Sometimes we cross the road and still they’re reacting, then it can mean the distance is still not enough! Other ways to minimise stress can be DAP collars, anxiety medication, natural therapies and thundershirts.

    Make sure the dog is motivated – Three main motivators (food, toys/play, pats/praise). Whichever you use, the reward cannot be freely available all the time. If they can get pats for free, why would they want to work at something really hard for them to earn pats? Toys are good idea but you might have to be careful if they’re already overexcited and aroused, in this case toys might make them more excited than they already are. Hence food being the most common way to motivate dogs. Choose high value food rewards, and you could also skip a meal to make sure they’re hungry. For a very reactive dog, feeding dinner in a bowl is a bit of a waste when you can feed all their food to manage the reactivity. For a dog that goes crazy hearing the doorbell, the food had better be good enough to occupy his attention.

    Training set ups – Sometimes you need a controlled environment, instead of just walking down the street and managing your dog when he comes across something stressful or exciting. Ideally this would be controlled exercises with another calm dog that belongs to a friend or family. You could also walk past a fenced dog park or a dog behind a fence in a neighbour’s house (work out the distance you have to be from the fence!) and do some training exercises. With teaching them not to resource guard, you could start from a low value toy, and alternately ask them to give and take as a set exercise.

    Managing the exposure to the trigger – essentially by distance management. If it is another dog walking towards your dog, check that your dog is seeing this. One of the things that happens if a dog is focused on you or something else, and then from his point of view, a dog suddenly appears very close to him and sends him off in a panic.

    How much help? - At first the dog might need a lot of help from you. A lot of treats and a lot of distraction. But as he progresses, he may need less and this can be beneficial to them to learn to calm themselves.

    Two courses of action – You might need two courses of action, a plan A and a Plan B. One for calm dogs walking past you and one for dogs barking and going off at your dog. Or one for a training set up, and a different one for an uncontrolled walk. One for normal walks, and one for when he completely explodes. It’s a good idea to work out at what level are they at and what sort of things might need a ‘Plan B’. Having a dog growl and bark at your dog might need a whole lot of distance more than a calm dog walking past. When things go wrong, what do you plan to do? If I got the distance wrong and my dog barked his head off, lunged and growled and panted like mad, what should I do? Having no plans and being surprised by this usually just ends with me dealing with it inconsistently, whatever I thought of at the moment. All this can be managed by having a plan that said I’ll scatter food on the ground or I’ll turn around and walk away immediately, or I’ll bring out his favourite toy that he never gets at home.

    Time frame to assess – It’s often hard to see progress and keep track of it, so it’s a good idea to keep a training journal You might only see improvements after a long period of time. This could be 4-6 weeks, and 6-8 weeks if it’s a more serious issue. Dogs learn quickly. If things haven’t changed, then it’s not quite working and you might want to revisit your training plan. Often if you’ve got good ideas/advice that make a lot of sense, then it’s not that you have to change your technique/method but that you’re not managing their stress levels well enough.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yying View Post
    Some of my notes from a seminar...

    Often we hear a lot of advice on how to manage a behaviour or what to do when X happens, but there are a couple more things to consider than than just applying a training method you read about or hear about. This is focused on dog-dog interaction issues, but are all still good things to consider for tackling any fear, frustration, overexcitement issue.

    Minimise stress in training – We can’t get rid of stress because that’s the whole point. The dog needs to be exposed to triggers to learn, but if he’s over-stressed then he learns nothing. You could have a very effective strategy, great timing, and end up with it not working because they’re just too stressed to learn and pay attention. If they get explosive then you know they’re too stressed. If they're mad for food and they won't take food, they're too stressed. One way to minimise stress is to create distance. Sometimes we cross the road and still they’re reacting, then it can mean the distance is still not enough! Other ways to minimise stress can be DAP collars, anxiety medication, natural therapies and thundershirts.

    Make sure the dog is motivated – Three main motivators (food, toys/play, pats/praise). Whichever you use, the reward cannot be freely available all the time. If they can get pats for free, why would they want to work at something really hard for them to earn pats? Toys are good idea but you might have to be careful if they’re already overexcited and aroused, in this case toys might make them more excited than they already are. Hence food being the most common way to motivate dogs. Choose high value food rewards, and you could also skip a meal to make sure they’re hungry. For a very reactive dog, feeding dinner in a bowl is a bit of a waste when you can feed all their food to manage the reactivity. For a dog that goes crazy hearing the doorbell, the food had better be good enough to occupy his attention.

    Training set ups – Sometimes you need a controlled environment, instead of just walking down the street and managing your dog when he comes across something stressful or exciting. Ideally this would be controlled exercises with another calm dog that belongs to a friend or family. You could also walk past a fenced dog park or a dog behind a fence in a neighbour’s house (work out the distance you have to be from the fence!) and do some training exercises. With teaching them not to resource guard, you could start from a low value toy, and alternately ask them to give and take as a set exercise.

    Managing the exposure to the trigger – essentially by distance management. If it is another dog walking towards your dog, check that your dog is seeing this. One of the things that happens if a dog is focused on you or something else, and then from his point of view, a dog suddenly appears very close to him and sends him off in a panic.

    How much help? - At first the dog might need a lot of help from you. A lot of treats and a lot of distraction. But as he progresses, he may need less and this can be beneficial to them to learn to calm themselves.

    Two courses of action – You might need two courses of action, a plan A and a Plan B. One for calm dogs walking past you and one for dogs barking and going off at your dog. Or one for a training set up, and a different one for an uncontrolled walk. One for normal walks, and one for when he completely explodes. It’s a good idea to work out at what level are they at and what sort of things might need a ‘Plan B’. Having a dog growl and bark at your dog might need a whole lot of distance more than a calm dog walking past. When things go wrong, what do you plan to do? If I got the distance wrong and my dog barked his head off, lunged and growled and panted like mad, what should I do? Having no plans and being surprised by this usually just ends with me dealing with it inconsistently, whatever I thought of at the moment. All this can be managed by having a plan that said I’ll scatter food on the ground or I’ll turn around and walk away immediately, or I’ll bring out his favourite toy that he never gets at home.

    Time frame to assess – It’s often hard to see progress and keep track of it, so it’s a good idea to keep a training journal You might only see improvements after a long period of time. This could be 4-6 weeks, and 6-8 weeks if it’s a more serious issue. Dogs learn quickly. If things haven’t changed, then it’s not quite working and you might want to revisit your training plan. Often if you’ve got good ideas/advice that make a lot of sense, then it’s not that you have to change your technique/method but that you’re not managing their stress levels well enough.
    All pretty good stuff.

    The one thing I will comment on is the time frame. 6-8 weeks is definitely not a long period of time. I have known and worked with dogs that have taken several years or more. Thinking of people I know with agility dogs that have ring stress. Sometimes these dogs take a long period of time even with the best trainers to start to shine and in some cases it is better for the dog to not trial it.

    I know with my fearful dog it took several years of hard work to get her comfortable out and about and even then she was never fully reliable. Often with these dogs it can be one step forward and 2 backwards. You really have to be watchful for the unexpected that can cause a set back and the work is unrelenting when you have a dog with behavioral issues that are more extreme and strongly genetically driven.

    We have a Border collie in the family that is very nervy. She will be fine one minute and then a random sound in the distance will send her into a meltdown. She has been diagnosed with a type of doggy autism by a vet behaviourist and a professional trainer. She is on medication which helps her focus better and reduces the panic attacks. Incredibly smart and learns quickly but she needs management when having a panic attack as her eyes glaze and she becomes hard to connect with despite a lot of work with a range of different techniques and solid training.

    Sometimes working with a dog with serious issues is not for the faint hearted and can take a lot of time and dedication.
    Last edited by Kalacreek; 03-11-2018 at 12:46 AM.

  3. #3

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    Agree on that it takes great commitment!

    I think what the trainer meant is a 'time frame to reassess'. 6-8 weeks to reassess, not 6-8 weeks to 'cure'. After 6-8 weeks, assess if they need as much distraction and food, assess if they're barking less or more, check whether they're now confident with set ups (since that should be very controlled and set up for their success).

  4. #4

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    That makes sense. My personal time frame to reassess us on something is 4 weeks, purely because it's easy to remember. Usually in 4 weeks, if I've been working hard at it, I'll see a small improvement. Granted, with Thistle, it will be positively minuscule but as long as she's not back sliding...holding to the new pattern of behaviour is also progress

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yying View Post
    Agree on that it takes great commitment!

    I think what the trainer meant is a 'time frame to reassess'. 6-8 weeks to reassess, not 6-8 weeks to 'cure'. After 6-8 weeks, assess if they need as much distraction and food, assess if they're barking less or more, check whether they're now confident with set ups (since that should be very controlled and set up for their success).
    Yes assessing progress is very good especially initially while you are finding your way but sometimes people get disillusioned when weeks pass by and there have been major or small setbacks and things are creeping slowly forward ever so slowly that it is hard to see real progress or you think you have made major progress when one event brings that crashing down! Generalising in different environments for the unexpected can be a real roller coaster ride! I gave up setting timelines and just accepted that it was going to be a long hard slog.

  6. #6
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    Great stuff.... Have you read BAT Dog Training, I think you would enjoy it..... I have it as an ebook, years old now.

    I do a lot of Water Rescue training.... we have to be very careful with our teaching. We start in Pry drive but have to end up in Pack drive. Dogs have to solve problems as conditions change and also very gentle......... I do teach some other breeds Water rescue work, but I find certain breeds stay in Prey and they are unable to stay motivated if we try to go to pack or are too hard in their bite when we stay in Prey drive with them. That is not good when a dog has to bring you in by pulling you by the hand as an unconscious drowner.

    I love training with my dogs and they seem to love it too. Every morning at 6am, I work with my young ones and at least weekly at the water with ours and other dogs at Lake Hume
    Pets are forever

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by newfsie View Post
    Great stuff.... Have you read BAT Dog Training, I think you would enjoy it..... I have it as an ebook, years old now.

    I do a lot of Water Rescue training.... we have to be very careful with our teaching. We start in Pry drive but have to end up in Pack drive. Dogs have to solve problems as conditions change and also very gentle......... I do teach some other breeds Water rescue work, but I find certain breeds stay in Prey and they are unable to stay motivated if we try to go to pack or are too hard in their bite when we stay in Prey drive with them. That is not good when a dog has to bring you in by pulling you by the hand as an unconscious drowner.

    I love training with my dogs and they seem to love it too. Every morning at 6am, I work with my young ones and at least weekly at the water with ours and other dogs at Lake Hume
    I have not... but I'm sure I would enjoy any training book lol.

    Water rescue training sounds really interesting! I hope to take Cedar tracking in the future, that's what his mom's side of the family does.

  8. #8
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    Tracking and water rescue can go hand in hand..... Tracking can lead to human rescue and the water part would be handy

    I have a friend I trained with in the USA, she has a tracking newf that does water rescue... He will sit on the front of the boat and "air sniff" and by his head position direct the boat.... and he will find people lost in reeds, amongst boats and non clear waters, such as lagoons and everglades.... One of her dog is also an air scenting cadaver dog... he sniffs for bodies in water and directs the same way. It is awesome to watch. In the USA they use these dogs with the water police and coast guard.... The Handler is a Water police member. Very interesting to see their training combine........The cadaver dog however only does cadaver rescue and is not a newf, but a blood hound. He also works on land.
    Pets are forever

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