In an earlier post I spoke of the problem with training plans. Currently we have three large groups of participants with specific breeds and a smaller group of other breeds not represented in the first few. Training a detection dog is a dynamic process. Specifically, it is not A to B to C to D …….. and that following that process will yield success. The variations in breeds, the variation within breeds, the varying rates of maturity, the varying knowledge and skill sets of the handler/trainer, means that a single formulaic system will be inadequate.
In my post on developmental attributes (https://www.akc.org/akc-detection-dog-task-force/akc-pilot-detection-puppy-rearing-program/blogs/overview/) I showed the training priorities from 0 to 6 months and how the priorities should shift when closing in at 12 months of age. Even saying that is dangerous, as some dogs will not be complete until 18 – 24 months.
I have created the training record in the form of a google form.
The form is not only to record weekly activities, but to give you a general sense of the things you can do. It is intentionally open ended. When working to raise nearly 600 dogs for the federal government, I learned far more in open ended reporting than in trying to create a formula. Some people did little and the dogs did poorly. Some people did little and the dogs did great. Some people did a ton of work and the dogs did poorly and some people did a ton and the dogs did great! Some people followed guidelines and others didn’t.
In an earlier career, I carried out an industry wide survey on trained sea lions and their aggression patterns. I offered closed ended responses and open ended responses. The best information was the open ended responses. It showed the vast differences in training styles and training egos. I had several responses from a two year animal training school where the responses from the students versus the instructors were polar opposites. The institution had only a single sea lion. The students blamed themselves for aggressive responses, while the instructors blamed the animal. The closed ended responses only yielded that the highest levels of aggression were in the spring and then in the fall.
Recording what you are doing on a weekly basis is very important and will allow me to work with individuals. Additionally, analyzing the data will enable us to share what patterns of training yield the highest success across all variation.
These blog posts should be inspiring everyone to ask questions and to interact with other program participants via social media. Of all the categories in the training record the two most related to success are Environmental Stability and Reward Engagement. Environmental Stability is the ability to go to any environment (familiar or unfamiliar) and not be impacted or deterred by distraction. Reward Engagement is important for the vast majority of detection dogs. This is an EXTREME desire of the dog to find and keep possession of the reward object (rolled towel, kong, ball, etc). Those are the top two reasons associated with a dog not being successful.