How to learn to learn

Over my years of training I have occasionally come across a dog that has no concept of learning a behavior. It has taken us quite a long while just to get the idea of doing something; to take on a position when given a verbal or vocal cue. It is much like the dogs who do not know how to play. It is so sad when I see or hear of it; they have no idea when either a soft stuffed toy is thrown down for them or a ball tossed in their direction that they can get some sort of enjoyment out of this item.

I have always talked to my dogs; we have very long conversations which are of course pretty much one sided. My girls don't give me much of a reply but my boy Luke communicates back to me pretty amazingly. Teaching a dog to learn is best achieved using food. With a really yummy treat; something choice that this particular dog would enjoy; can get you good results. What you have to do is break down a behavior into tiny steps of succession.

Breaking a behavior down helps with frustration levels. If a dog that has never learned before is to strive to achieve more then they must get some sort of pay off. It is very much like working with a very under confident dog; they just don't have it in them to offer up behaviors. So at the slightest sign of anything given to you; you have a party and a big payday. These uneducated dogs really have no idea what you want from them so the concept of wanting them to do something is the start.

What you have to do immediately is stop handing out freebies; treats that are given for nothing. Sit is always the easiest behavior and can be taught to dogs in one minute up to maybe 15 min for an uneducated typed. One also has to start communicating with these dogs; they need to know when certain sounds come out of your mouth that it means something. Once a dog gets the whole "learning a behavior concept" you can run with it. But until then you are pretty much up against a brick wall.

Usually these type of dogs shut down very quickly when you first start working with them. They do not understand why they are not getting the treat that is in your hand. Sometimes if they are so focused on the treat that they cannot think of anything but the treat; we have to lessen the yumminess of the treat. It has to be good enough to work for but not so good that they cannot think. These dogs need extreme patience from their educator. It can be frustrating for both involved so if you find yourself loosing it; quit and start again tomorrow.

This brings to mind how awful yank and choke type trainiing would be for these type dogs; all dogs actually so I think that's on tomorrows blog. TGIF

Oh, as a sidenote and not dog at all I'm heading off to see Garth tonight in LA whooohoooooo. Actually I bet Garth has a dog, I should find out.

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