Logan – part 5 – baby steps


  1. 1.
    the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
    “the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”
  2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
    “nylon is excellent in wearability, abrasion resistance and resilience”

Dr Susan Freidman talks about resilience being built by the number of good experiences divided by the number of bad experiences. Unfortunately, bad experiences stay with us longer than good ones (due to evolution), so we need to stock our bunker with loads of good times to counter the few bad ones. When working with a dog like Logan, who in my assessment hasn’t had enough good, healthy behavioural and training experiences, we are already in the red even before we even start.

I’ll cover how we build that resilience in future installments but for now I’ll share where we are with him. At the start of the year, I had to carefully plan the timing of every session and what I tried to teach. To many new things within too short a period of time lead to old, aberrant behaviours popping out which weren’t good for either of us. If I taught him something new one day, I would have to wait at least a day before I revisited training which we had already started. Two steps forward and two steps back at this stage but at least we we moving.

As the weeks progressed, we could then try something new on Monday and work on advancing something he had previously learned on Tuesday. We would then to something super easy and fun on Wednesday. We are now getting to the stage where his capacity for work has increased and the volume of work he can do per session has increased. This afternoon we were working on him following the target stick for clockwise and counter-clockwise turns, something which has taken many sessions to make any progress with.

Traditional clicker training says we should aim to increase criteria within a session and make successive approximations towards the end goal. I apply this with him but am far more flexible in that criteria. Within one ten rep session, he will perform well for 5 of the and not great for the others. I take and reinforce all of these to keep giving him those successes. With this appraoch have been able to get a dog who stared blankly at a target stick to one who will follow it most times. This has taken hundreds and hundreds or repetitions. We did 80 this afternoon broken down into two sessions. Session one was 5 sets of 10 reps. Session three was 3 sets of 10 reps. I am confident he will still have capacity for a little more this evening and will be ready to go again tomorrow. If he doesn’t I’ll look at all the factors over the weekend and tweak them for next time.

Baby steps, but we are getting there.

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