'In 1993 I videotaped two sets of people--dog trainers and nondog trainers--putting dogs through their paces, to see what they did differently. ... The trainers were especially good at setting the level of difficulty; escalating so that progress was constant but easy enough that the dog won enough to stay in the game. ... But there was another difference ... The nontrainers would typically try something for a few times--say, getting the dog to lie down--and then, whether they were successful or not, they would stop training. ... Most of their training time consisted of this "between-training" dead air. The trainers, by contrast, were relentless. Their eyes never left the dog, and they did repetition after repetition. It was hard to get them to break off at the end of the allotted time. ... The trainers trained like bats out of hell, and the nontrainers were mostly on break time.' (p1-2)
'Many trainers use their judgement to decide when to make things harder (raising criteria), but I strongly recommend being more systematic and using rules to decide when to make it harder, when to keep practicing at the current level, and when to back off and make it easier. We're therefore going to use a system called Push, Drop, Stick. You are going to do five repetitions in a row of an exercise and keep track of how many of these five your dog does correctly. Based on how he performs on those five repetitions (trials), you will do one of the following:
Push--go on to the next level of difficulty
Drop--drop back down to the previous level of difficulty
Stick--stay at the current level of difficulty and do more repetitions
This system [Push-Drop-Stick system] is summarized in the following grid:
|How Many Did He Get Right|
Out of Five Repetitions?
|Push||Five out of five||Make it harder.||He's proven himself|
proficient at the
|Drop||Zero, one or two out of five||Make it easier.||He's about to quit--|
this level is too hard
for him right now.
|Stick||Three or four out of five||Do another set of five |
at this level of difficulty.
|He doesn't need|
you to Drop but he's
not ready for a Push yet.
... The important thing is that you use the system. Being organized and objective is good animal training.' (p9-10)
'One of the biggest errors of novice trainers is the tendency to chant commands ("Sit, sit, sit, SIT!"). Expert trainers do not even introduce commands until a behaviour is far along ... So once your dog performs reliably for a hand signal, start placing the verbal command before--always before, never during, never after--the hand signal.' (p19)
'We primates are very good imitative learners, and the visual example will clear up more than any lengthy description can. A lot of people also find that they get itchy to train if they watch someone else training, which can help jump-start you if you're having trouble getting motivated. ... Training is generally a solo endeavor, which suits some people perfectly but causes others to stall. ... Articulating what's bugging you about the process to a good listener can be very liberating, even if that person doesn't know a whit about dog training.' (p43)
'There's a saying in professional dog training: "It's all tricks." What this means is that although we classify sit, down, etc. as obedience and rolling over and high-five as tricks, the nuts and bolts of training these behaviors do not differ in the slightest. From a dog's perspective, sitting and rolling over are equally arbitrary actions.' (p45)
'The most common reason on this earth for being frustrated by slow progress in dog training is poor technique. ... Breaking rules because you know what you're doing appears to be part of human nature. Here are the five biggest mistakes of dog training:
1. Stinginess with rewards
2. Premature pushing
3. Not keeping track
4. Skipping steps
5. Refusal to drop.' (p46)
'...in our cyberspeed world, animal training feels slow. One way people try to speed things up is to increase the level of difficulty as soon as the dog gets something right once or twice. Our impatience is compounded by our projecting to the dog a way we humans often learn, by a sudden flash of insight. We can suddenly get something, such as the punch line of a joke or the reason our souffle collapsed. Dogs do not learn this way. Dogs learn obedience the way we learn to dance the salsa or play the trumpet. At your first couple of dance lessons, you sometimes get the sequence of steps right. This in no way prevents you from future error. Most of us will need repetition of any given dance step before the instructor can safely add another step.' (p47)
'Sit-Stay means the dog sits and remains sitting--he does not get up out of his Sit, does not rotate in place or creep forward--in spite of distractions. It's the single best behaviour vehicle I know to improve trainer timing. The trainer must not only cancel rewards pointedly for mistakes, but must identify the moment that the dog makes good on the Stay contract--in other words, when he decides not to break his Stay--and reward at that moment. It's also instructive for what trainers call feeding for position the delivery of the actual reward while the dog is still in position, sitting in this case.' (p53)
'Taking it on the road is trainer slang for behaviour generalization: can the dog perform for a new person, such as a family member who didn't participate in the training, and in new places? Dogs are sensitive to these changes, much more so than we are.' (p93)
'Dogs are not only descended from wolves, they are really the same species, just a domesticated variety. When adult wolves hunt, they gorge and return to weaned puppies with full bellies. The puppies eagerly lick at the mouths of the adults, who then reflexively regurgitate food for them. It's an elegant transport system, which is also employed by African Hunting Dogs, a more distantly related species, but one with a similar ecology. This urge to face-lick when reunited after an absence is retained into adulthood, but its role morphs to that of greeting and affiliation rather than food soliciting. This retention into adulthood of an infantile trait is called neoteny (neo is new or young, and teny is from the Greek teinein, which means to stretch). While most dogs have lost the regurgitation reflex, virtually all have a strong face-licking urge in any greeting context. It's friendly behaviour. And because we humans are vertical, dogs jump up to access our faces.' (p105)