Reasons To Be Cheerful 1, 2, 3.

Have you noticed that daily and whole life events tend to happen in groups of three. For example we get up, go to work and go to bed. To aid homeostasis and bodily rhythm, a twenty four hour period is divided into three groups of 8 hours rather than two groups of 12 hours. A clock face is divided into 12 segments, 12 being divisible by 3 and not by 10 as our EU counterparts may have us believe! Our lives are divided into childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Space is three dimensional. There are three point on a plane. Buses come along in threes as trailing buses tend to catch up with the leader which is doing all the work picking up customers!

We talk about dog trainers, school teachers and driving instructors. Are the three descriptions interchangeable? Well in theory, yes, but conventionally, no. Now let’s get serious and on with dog training! Is the dog a pack animal? It all depends on our definition of the word ‘pack’ – of which there are (you’ve guessed it) three. These vary depending on the context. For example, ‘an unruly group’, ‘a family’ or ‘a pack of cards’. Of course our pet dog belongs to the family, or should that be pack?

The ABC of dog training.
ABC = Antecedent, Behaviour, Consequence. For example cue ‘sit’, the dog offers the desired behaviour, in turn we offer a marker, reward or both depending on the level of training. In the early stages A and B are invariably reversed – BAC – as the dog has no comprehension of the word ‘sit’. We wait for the behaviour to occur naturally or we lure the dog into position BEFORE cueing and rewarding. Victoria Stilwell shows this eloquently in this Youtube video………

The Three ‘Ds’.
The three Ds = Duration, Distance, Distractions. Once we have our dog in the sit position we then ask for ‘down/stay’. It’s important to set the dog up to succeed so initially this may only be for a couple of seconds before releasing. Duration is built up incrementally to maybe a couple of minutes. We then increase distance by walking away from and around the dog. When this is reliable we can then increase the level of distractions from the living room to the garden, working up to the great outdoors. Zak George demonstrates this in his various Youtube videos.

The Three ‘Es’.
The three Es = Encouragement, Enthusiasm, Empathy. An area of great importance. Mammals, birds and other animals learn best in a positive environment with plenty of encouragement from their trainer/mentor. For example, if we are told often enough that we are useless or stupid, eventually we will believe it. This is known as ‘learned helplessness’ and can have a profound effect on a vulnerable individual. Imagine the harm done if we add physical abuse! A rule of thumb is to ignore the bad stuff (unless unsafe to do so) and praise/reward the good stuff. Also to keep formal training sessions short, relevant and enthusiastic. Empathy helps if we can place ourselves in the position of our trainee.

The Three ‘Ps’.
The three Ps = Practise, Patience, Persistence. Practise for both trainer and dog is paramount. No two dogs are the same and there are as many scenarios as their are dogs! No two (or three) outcomes will be the same – at least in the early stages. It goes without saying that we must at all times exercise patience and persistence.

Whatever the circumstances we always set our dog up for success. In the early stages of training for example, we do not recall our puppy when he is running away from us. What he will actually learn is that ‘come here’ means ‘run away’. We should, and must, (I almost forgot to mention The Three Cs) communicate, be consistent and:- be cheerful 1, 2, 3!

Reasons to be cheerful 1, 2, 3 – Ian Dury 1942-2000

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