Scott loves to say, “don’t confuse process with progress.” But what does that mean?? Today I read an interesting study that illustrates this point perfectly. Here’s their conclusion: “For dogs learning a given skill, weekly training results in better learning performance than training ﬁve times a week, when performance is measured in the number of training sessions required to reach a certain training level.” In other words, the dogs who received more frequent training (more process) made less progress!
The team of researchers in Denmark worked with 18 laboratory Beagles, using operant conditioning (clicker training, in this case) to teach them to place their front paw on a mousepad. Nine of the dogs had one training session per day, Monday through Friday. The other nine had one training session per week. Following a strict protocol to ensure that each training session was identical, the researchers measured how many sessions the dogs required to reach certain learning benchmarks and how successful they were along the way. They found that the dogs trained once a week learned the task in an average of 6.7 sessions, while the dogs trained every day needed an average of 9.0 sessions. They also found that the dogs trained daily generally made more mistakes (repetitions that were not reinforced with a click) than did the weekly trained dogs.
Raising a puppy for detection is a long-term project. With 12-15 months to work with we are in an excellent position to incorporate these findings into our training practices. Next time you’re wondering whether you should be training more often, remember: more process doesn’t always bring more progress!
The relationship between number of training sessions per week and learning in dogs
Iben Meyer, Jan Ladewig*
Department of Large Animal Science, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Grønnega˚ rdsvej 8, 1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
Accepted 20 June 2007. Available online 3 August 2007
Abstract: Despite the fact that most domestic dogs receive some kind of training, surprisingly few studies have been undertaken to analyze the process in detail, e.g. the question of how often training should be done has not been investigated in dogs. According to the Danish animal protection law, laboratory animals, including laboratory dogs, must be habituated to personnel and laboratory procedures before experimentation. In order for the law to be implemented, however, better knowledge about the effect of different training schedules on the learning performance of dogs is needed, something that is also of interest for owners and trainers of family dogs as well as working type dogs. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effect of two different training schedules on the number of training sessions required to reach a certain training level. Using shaping and clicker training, 18 laboratory Beagles were trained to perform a target response. Nine dogs were trained once a week and nine dogs were trained ﬁve times a week. The results of the study show that dogs trained once a week learned the shaping exercise in signiﬁcantly fewer training sessions than dogs trained ﬁve times a week. In addition, weekly trained dogs tended to have higher success rates at the different steps of the shaping exercise than the dogs trained ﬁve times a week. The dogs trained ﬁve times a week completed the shaping exercise in signiﬁcantly fewer days than the weekly trained dogs. It is concluded that for dogs learning a given skill, weekly training results in better learning performance than training ﬁve times a week, when performance is measured in the number of training sessions required to reach a certain training level.
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