There is a new Kwicklab's pup
on the horizon and she will probably be my last. The aim high goal
will be field trial competition.
- June 4, a deposit for a female was mailed. The litter is due this week.
The breeding is
KPR'S Wet Willie
Grizzly's Scooter Magee
note: both are amateur owned and trained
pedigree link "Wiliie"
This winter has been especially
brutal in more ways than one. I've taken a few months to update the Website
and go over past training journals as they relate to training Taffey,
Kooly, Daisy and Gunny. Obviously, there is still a great deal more to be
learned (and adjusted)). These several months will be spent analyzing what
went right (and wrong).
With quite a bit of recent interest generated by threads on the Retriever
Training Forum, two areas of training have spiked my curiosity. One has to
do with "treat training" and the others are "training and
teaching in drive". Treat
trainers have somewhat embraced the "training in drive" concept in that
treats appear to shift a pup into "drive". It provides motivation
and justification for treats as a viable teaching tool.
To be perfectly frank, I've never been very impressed with what often seems
an overuse. Keep in mind, the definition of "overuse" is mostly a personal
perception and bias. Any pup will most certainly become accustomed to tasty
rewards and the resultant games seem to be a great deal of fun. The process
of using well
thought out sessions produces useful behaviors. I've been there more than
enough to realize treats were that "big of a thing". Of course one
treat. Some would refer to it a lure or prop. As an example, replacing the
effect of a small piece of hot dog with a real duck seems to be a reasonable
transition from teaching to training in drive. The deciding issues are often
more about when and how.
That question has created a need to do further personal investigations.
Therefore, writing out my present perspective/bias on treats was the first
step in the analysis.
Perspective will NOT often change when what is working seems to
simply working. I've been well aware of the impact of a
thrown treat into a pup's crate. It immediately brings about the
understanding of "kennel up!".
When the pup does it as a matter of routine, he doesn't seem to need the
treat anymore. They do it because it seems to be exciting and fun. The
simple action quickly transitions to a non-treat anticipation
and finally a habit. They kennel up because it becomes a routine. The pup
takes on the mind set that “This is what I do.” which in itself is a huge first
step in the training process. The fact is a creative trainer can
quickly turn what appears be an animated, fun reaction into an expectation.
Subsequent repetitions create a habit.
In another related topic, the “buzz” word in today's training world is
drive”. The premise is a dog is easier to teach when in “drive”. The
explanation is that excitement increases learning. The
problem is most trainers do not understand the underlying reasons for why.
Years ago while I was working on
my Master's Thesis in education (the title was “Memorize and Perish”), a
significant scientific fact was that adrenalin enhances memory. The negative
of that concept is that adrenalin flushes may occur because of either
positive or negative stimulation. In addition, adrenalin reactions do not last
a long time. That is reason those first few minutes of stimulation during a
training session are the most effective times to properly teach something
new. It also explains why (when bad things happen) a dog remembers for a
long time. Negative, adrenalin entrenched memories are difficult to extinguish.
Now getting back to
treats.....puppies get excited very easily.....whatever they are
experiencing during that short window of drive is accompanied by an
adrenalin rush and it is more likely to be become a memory. Therefore, it's
critical to think a bit more about what you actually want the pup to
remember with respect to the timing of the action that was initiated.
Given all the above, I look at treat training much differently than what is
presented in most puppy videos or read on RTF. I may hold a treat down over a
pup's head and move it back until he sits. However, when the pup associates
the moving hand without a treat to sit, he doesn't seem to need the treat
anymore. Basically, the pup discovers actions in context are fun, exciting and memorable
If an "activity" is perceived as fun (accompanied with an adrenalin "flush")
the result is a lasting memory. I'm having a great deal of difficulty
reconciling the the approach that repeated treats over a longer
period of time will not produce the same effects. To continue in this vein, if a pup senses the impending, exciting event
and remembers how exciting it was, he will enter into drive without needing
treats. Self-motivation becomes a habit. A pup's attitude will reveal if the
trainer has succeeded in developing the willingness to be responsive. An
eager pup is the goal.
In the pup's mind “this is what I do” becomes a conditioned reflex when
interacting with his trainer. Which means treats quickly become
unnecessary...for the pup. The very presence of a teaching trainer becomes
the "treat". In my opinion treat trainers often become
compulsive about maintaining control. There seems to be little thought about weaning themselves off their need
A good example of using this idea is
to mark sitting as the appropriate
action before proceeding. Essentially, the pup can't do what's coming next
until they sit. It should be noted this is not a formal OB sit with corrections. The anticipation of "what is next" is
the reward.....it is
exciting and precipitates drive. To repeat, the pup soon realizes nothing further
is going to happen unless a sit happens. In spite of their excitement, they
learn and remember to sit because they
want to get on with what comes next. This is a significant hurdle in the
teaching process. The reward of the next step in an established routine
becomes the reward. It is critical to make the step fun and exciting.
Here is an example. Puppy wants to exit crate because you are at the door. A
(for a few days)
will 1) have him sitting in his crate before the door is opened (in
drive). 2) When the door
is opened he exits and sits again for the treat. 3) when on the sit outside
the crate, the pup will have a soft, cloth collar placed on his neck, 4) pup
heels loosely (short poly lead) with you to the exit door, 5) sits while the door is
opened, 6) trainer/teacher exits first (pup remains on sit) 7) pup exits house and sits
while I close the door, 8) I take the collar off and release him to air in
an enclosed area. Each step is part of the routine with small
incremental rewards along the way. These are the results of "tiny", repeated
and known anticipations.
Puppies thrive on predictable patterns and structure. It is simpler for a
control anticipation when they know what comes next. If they are excited
because of anticipation the structure of the routine helps then to work
their way through each step.
There is less
pressure when what's next is known. Once a pup trusts his trainer/teacher he
will be more receptive to new things because the routine is new "stuff" will
For example, the daily
crate/exercise/airing process is a
sequential series of expectations based on teaching (through repetition).
In essence, when you approach the crate door the pup enters into a
conditioned drive. He does not need the treat because he learns during the structured content of the day that “This is
how I react and what I
do because it is all I know.” It becomes an expectation......a precise,
It is not formal OB......and it is not a five minute out of context
lesson. If the pup were aired/exercised five times a day.....he quickly becomes
familiar and comfortable with the routines. Once it becomes a habit, drive is unnecessary
because teaching and training have produced the desired expectations.
Puppy OB is not a ten minute drill out of context and it is not formal.
However, puppy OB should be well engrained routines which provide a solid foundation
for formal teaching and training.
On a related side note and out of context (for now) ....the basic structure of a well
thought out teaching lesson is 1) do a short review of what was taught
yesterday, 2) move quickly to introduce and teach the new "thing" and 3) finish
doing something the pup likes to do (and which he is good at).
Getting back to the treat tossed into a crate....after about two weeks, he
knows what is going to happen...it is a pleasant routine. Treats aren't
The early windows of
opportunity (establishing routines) need to be nurtured but puppy/trainer interactions
need not become a trail of treats. It is often said that dogs need a job and puppies
are the “empty bucket” so to speak. The pup that does "stuff" because
this is all he knows and he likes it are generally willing to learn more if it
taught in this manner. Many simple, pleasant, exciting puppy
interactions with a teacher should be a "big deal". Miss them and they can
never be revisited.......context changes.
Dogs are genetically programmed to function best when
in drive. Verbal praise
properly timed and not overdone....laced with doing fun, exciting "things" is the norm
for taking advantage of drive. Most all of the traits/genetics utilize adrenalin
and other brain secreted chemicals as
catalysts. The skilled trainer decides when to speed up or slow down so as to
keep a dog in balance. It is all about getting a pup into the "This is what
I do” mind set because “I like working with you.” mode. That is the real treat.
course the “off shoot” of the excitement enhanced memory is that if the
"stuff he does" is not useful, “bad stuff” may create “skeletons in the
closet”. The idea is to keep a focused, responsive pup saying "That was fun?
Maybe I missed something. I don't get the big deal with treats except maybe
with a brand new pup to "break the ice" and set things in motion. It's good
to be accepted as the Center of the Universe (by a pup). Somehow I
feel that being a treat dispenser is beneath the dignity of that title.
It's not long before my pups'
tails wag (often) and are "swallowing all the new stuff up" that is
presented every day. If I play my cards correctly a pup will eventually
tolerate the difficult because that's what they learn to do. They trust me.
They are excited. It's fun and succeed at it because this "thing" they are working
on is what they were bred
to do.........without expecting a savory treat every time the trainer (me)
Sometimes I think treat training
reinforces the need for a trainer to feel like they are in total control.
The pup "on the other hand" isn't going to argue with extended treat
I wrote this and read it
carefully.......quickly decided maybe it was a bit too satirical, maybe
contrary or even mean spirited (take your pick). I'd be better off to just
not say anything because it really wouldn't change many opinions. Can you
say entrenched?.......This paragraph may soon be edited out.
However, most treat trainers are graciously to offer
up this insight - "It's not for everyone."
So far, my perspective has changed very little.
will be more about "drive" teaching.....to be continued.
February 1, 2014
This page is in a state of flux. What is being re-thought (edited)
will change on a daily basis. The basic rule is nothing is wrong when
brainstorming. What is
written today may be altered tomorrow. I will give this page at least three
before passing judgment. Right at the moment, I'm trying to find more
insight into the reasoning of trainers who are "teaching in drive" and does
what they are saying make sense.
February 2, 2014 update using info from question
"Recently I've read a
couple of expressions on various threads that I'm not sure
what they mean. For example, is there a difference between training in
drive vs. teaching in drive? or are they the same? Either way how
about an explanation, an example or a reference.
The generalization that
there isn't much new in retriever training except
something else comes to mind."
would say that teaching in drive is using the food or bumper as a luring
agent to teach what
it is you want. Training in drive is using the food or
bumper at a level
after the dog knows what you want. The term training in
drive has been
around forever,,,just not so much with the retriever
Received a useful link:
Drive and Instinct (link)
This was very helpful and kind of a relief because my understanding of the
concepts were close to being on target. I wasn't going to "bet the farm" on that before.
note: There is an anticipation that perspectives will change as this process
unfolds. This "study" will remain fluid and open to suggestions. Any
modifications will be explained in detail including the rationale. Nothing
"old" will be erased so as to maintain a history.
Updated - June 4, 2014 with puppy arriving 7-9 weeks from now.