Positively Excellent Dog Training Part 2 – Reinforcement Part 1

Positively excellent dog training. We continued today, Saturday 27th February 2016, looking at reinforcement. Reinforcement is such a huge topic that we have split it into 2 workshops, the next one being in the 19th March. Even then, 4 hours of learning can be only an introduction to the topic, which, as positive reinforcment trainers, sits at the very heart of what we do.

After introductions, Clare presented a short input on reinforcement, mainly to get the students thinking about what reinforcement is. What is reinforcement and how does it differ from rewards and treats? Is there a difference? These are not semantics, if we don’t know the difference, how can we expect to apply it to our dogs?

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We divided the reinforcement into three categories; food reinforcers, toy/play reinforcers and life reinforcers.As modern dog trainers, we looked at positve reinforcement, rather than negative reinforcement.

Each of the categories was divided further to identify the pros and cons of each of them, when they could be used, and what behaviours they could be used to reinforce.

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Toy reinforcers pictured above. Divided into chase, retrieve and tug toys. Remember, it’s what the dog gets to do with the toy which is reinforcing rather than the toy itself!

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After discussion on the merits and disadvantages of each, the groups the devised training plans to test the value of various reinforcers.

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Building on the work done in the last workshop, ethical considerations were taken into account for both the handler and the dog, with welfare of the dog being at foremost in our minds. The attendees showed real thoughfulness in their design.


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Homework assignments were given with ongoing support between workshops. If you are interested in attending these, or are interested in hosting us to run these workshops in your area, please contact me at glasgowdogtrainer@hotmail.co.uk.

Part 2 of the reinforcment workshop is on the 19th March 2016 in East Kilbride.

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A model for learning – 70:20:10

Guest blog by Clare Russell. Clare and I are running Positively Excellent Dog Training for trainers and enthusiasts throughout 2016. For more information, email me at glasgowdogtrainer@hotmail.co.uk

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Being part of an international group of on line learners brings certain advantages. One is that we are often exposed to information that we would never have considered relevant to our dog training.

Following one Tuesday evening lesson, Leanne Smith a fellow student from Australia introduced us to the model of 70:20:10.

The 70:20:10 model for learning and development is being used by organisations across the world and I see application for us as dog trainers.

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The concept of the 70:20:10 framework is extremely simple to understand it suggests that only 10% of our learning comes from attending lectures and seminars or other formal training events. 20% of our learning comes from networking and speaking to others. 70% of our learning comes from experience.

Charles Jennings who has popularised the model reminds us that it is a model and not a recipe. The numbers are not a rigid formula. They simply remind us that the majority of our learning and development comes through experience, the 70; and networking and discussion, the 20. Jennings points out the model suggests we learn least, the 10, from structured courses and seminars.

Like most of you I have benefited from the 10. I have attended many formal seminars and taken part in courses that have been structured but I agree with Jennings that they ‘rarely, if ever, provided the complete answer’.

So why do I feel the 70 is important to us as dog trainers? Firstly every learner is different, no matter the species. If I am honest my attendance at seminars in the past, has been to seek solutions, find some answers to current training issues. I’ve absorbed the speakers information, written up my notes, prepared my training arena, started training with my learner and then ‘ah I didn’t expect that’! Either the speaker didn’t cover this eventuality or I didn’t make enough notes! This was the limitation to learning in a formal environment, especially before we had easy access to the 20, in the form of social media and email.

I started out on the journey to help others train their dogs over 15 years ago. I was excited by the things I was learning and thought it was important to give people as much information as possible as quickly as possible, usually much more than they had asked for.

With all the new information under my belt it was so obvious that clients needed to change so much, change the dogs diet, change their approach to training, change their toys and training equipment. On top of all this I would teach them how to use a clicker, teach how to use positive reinforcement training techniques, enthuse about where their dog and their training would be in 2 years time and usually try to cram it all into one lesson!

The approach was to talk and talk and then talk some more, always carrying on beyond the allotted session time and then sending out pages and pages of notes and links. Looking back I was firmly in the lecture mindset and I suspect my learners were only getting the 10 of the learning they needed – hmmm! Good for my ego but not necessarily beneficial to the learner.

So how do I approach training these days – firstly all training is a conversation*, a conversation between the learner and I. The learner may be a person, someone in a class or along for a private lesson or one of my own dogs. Teaching has become much more about listening to what the learner is saying, changing strategy as the conversation develops or realising it is time to take a break.

These days classes and other teaching opportunities begin with dog free, small group discussion. Small group discussion provides an opportunity for questions to be asked and conversation to develop. It allows for practice and rehearsal of protocol before working with a dog.

Whenever possible we train dogs with peer group training. Plenty of breaks for the dogs and plenty of opportunity for questions to arise. Classes are student led with participants being urged to shape their own learning. Students experience the 70 not only by training their own dog but helping others in the class to train, working together to problem solve.

Questions drive learning, rather than send people home with lots of fact sheets we have utilised Facebook to set up a small closed group to continue discussion between classes. The ease of posting information in a group means that additional material can be added at a pace that suits the learners. Small groups allow for opportunities for those ‘ah – I didn’t expect that’ moments to be discussed in real time rather than waiting a whole week before the next class.

Making the change away from the traditional class format wasn’t an easy decision but I can honestly say I have thoroughly enjoyed the last year of training.

Some more examples as to how the 70:20:10 model can benefit learning.

At the first session of the Positively Excellent Dog Training series John and I gave a presentation for the first half  and then set the participants a practical training task for the second half. Within each team everyone had a defined role but that role allowed the whole team to work together. As we reflected on our learning at the end of the day participants had many ‘aha’ and ‘I had never thought of that’ moments to share which had come from the practical exercise. We agreed that these were things they may never have learned from a more traditional presentation based seminar.

The Training Thoughtfully event presented by Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, Alexandra Kurland and Kay Laurence showed similar results. As participants we were treated to some wonderful presentations, packed full of valuable information and we also played several rounds of the game of PORTL. Again as learners shared their ‘take home’ point, so many came from playing the games.

So the challenge for all people working with dogs – trainers, dog walkers, groomers is – how will you build the 70:20:10 into your own learning, development and teaching?

Happy Training.

 

*With thanks to Alexandra Kurland