The "new" retriever training "buzz" phrase is "teaching and training in drive".

                                                
(note: this is an on going.....draft)

 
  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.

Update - June 4, a deposit for a female was mailed. The litter is due this week. The breeding is 
FC AFC KPR'S Wet Willie X Grizzly's Scooter Magee MH 
      note: both are amateur owned and trained

                                   pedigree link 
 "Wiliie" X "Magee"

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 must define
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.

Part I

Perspective will NOT often change when what is working seems to be........well
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 (adrenaline impacted).

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 for control. 

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 treat
(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 pup to 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 be fun.

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, drive imprinted routine.

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).

Part II

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 necessary.

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.

Of 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? What's next?

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) is pleased.

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 training.

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.

Part III  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 months
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 on RTF:
"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            calling it something else comes to mind." KwickLabs

Reply: "
I 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
           community." Pete

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.   
 

 
 
 
 
 
                                                     updated 06/04/14