Foundation Skills - Level 1Introduction to Foundation Skills:
This class should really be called: Introduction to Foundation Skills for Assistance Dogs and Their Trainers as that is what it covers. You learn as the dog learns.
Welcome to the wonderful work of training assistance dogs! You are about to embark on a journey that will change your life not only your dog's life. Not only will you train your own assistance dog to mitigate your or your love one's disabilities, but you will also change the way you see the world! If you apply the principles of positive reinforcement to your life to those around you, you will find that your view of the world changes for the better! Your understanding of the world will clarify and you will start to live a functional, positive life that is open to dealing with your emotions and the emotions of others.
It's a journey and it's not likely to happen all at once so don't worry about being overwhelmed. Just focus on the little steps laid out in front of you and you will get there. To quote my life motto: Yard-by-Yard, Life is Hard. Inch-by-Inch, It's a Cinch! No matter with what you are faced with in life, if you break it down into smaller and smaller pieces, it is easier to accomplish those tiny baby steps. Each one leads to the bigger goal you want to achieve!
I highly recommend reading a book called "Reaching the Animal Mind" by Karen Pryor. It will show you the possibilities of training that marker-based training combined with an ethological approach can do. She also has video clips to demonstrate the applications. Borrow it from your local library or purchase your own copy from www.clickertraining.com .
You are Not Alone!
As AAAD starts helping more and more people over the internet , there will be more resources for you to draw from and more support for you. You are not alone! You may have heard of the term 'terminally unique". Terminally Unique is applied to people who think that they are so very different from everyone else that they are alone and isolate themselves to the point of death. While we are all special in our own way, we are also part of a larger community. And, believe it or not, many other people have gone through what you are and come out successfully on the other side. By reaching out and getting help from them, you can remove the 'terminal' part of the uniqueness. You have much to offer and will be around to offer it to others! Helping others is all part of the bigger circle of life. Your journey is just beginning no matter your age!
Back to This Class
In this 3-part class, your dog will learn the base behaviours and skills that all others are based on and you (the trainer) will learn how to train her through the process step by step and learn the theory and how it is applied. AAAD's goal is that you will be able to start generalising your knowledge and skills to training other behaviours and skills. Learning is a combination of knowledge and practical application, trial and yes, you will make errors. The class should help you to minimise the errors while maximising the desired behaviours and help you understand why it works.
If you are planning to train other assistance dogs for yourself or others or just want to train your current dog new tasks, it pays to learn the theory behind it, rather than just follow a plan someone else has provided. That is a big downfall of the old ways we were taught in class. They only showed us how to teach 'behaviour A' but didn't teach the correct biology or theory behind it. These classes help you to understand WHY you are doing it and how you can apply it to many other behaviours not just the one you are training.
You are an owner-trainer, an assistance dog, looking to add to his/her toolbox, or one of our volunteers , these classes provide you with a thorough understanding of how your dog learns and how you can tweak your training to help your dog succeed so together you can be an awesome team.
AAAD recommend teaching the behaviours in the order they are presented. Mostly because they are a combination that has worked well for the dogs we have trained and other people's dogs. You can start teaching one behaviour, then take a break and switch to teaching another one, then come back to the first one. I suggest not attempting to teach any more than 3 behaviours at a time though as it is hard to keep track of the specific criterion you are working on.
If you and your dog are very new to clicker training, then I suggest sticking with one at a time until your dog can do at least the basic behaviour and you have started teaching him a cue for it. Don't worry, it doesn't take long for most dogs to get to that point for most of the foundation behaviours.
Summary of Class Content
- Learning in Dogs
- Teaching Principles
- Mechanics of Clicker Training or Use a Verbal Marker Yes or Yip something sharp
- Leave it or Zen
- Recording Training Data/Journaling
- Eye Contact
- The Dance/Moving with You
- Capturing Behaviours
- Potty, Sit and Down
- Targeting & Luring
- Nose Target
- Stick Target
- Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning
- Kissy Sound (recall, interrupter)
- Handling (massage-neck, bum, chest, head, muzzle, lips, ears, legs, paws, toes), other person holding leash, person bending over dog, other person handling, wearing a harness
- Paw targeting
Use Short Training Sessions
Keep your training sessions short and plan exactly what you are training before you train. By being so focused, you will find that your dog learns very quickly in a short period of time and with much less effort. I count out treats and use them in sets of 10 with 30 seconds break or so between each set of 10. When you have exhausted your treats, you are done for the training session. Always leave the dog wanting to do more. How many sets you do in a session depends on your dog. A puppy you might start with 2 sets of 5 and an adult who loves learning you might do 5 sets of 10. You can do three or even four training sessions a day if you like and if your dog is enjoying it. If your dog is doing that much training, make sure to remove the same amount of food from his meals that you are feeding in training treats so he doesn't gain weight. Only if weigh gaining is a problem or he/she needs to be on the hungry side to train to optimum level.
Train 5 Days a Week if possible
I recommend that you formally train your dog only 5 days a week. Just like us, they need breaks, even though it's all fun for them (or should be). How you schedule that is up to you. You can work 5 days in a row if that coincides with your schedule, or you can work a few days and take one off, work a few more take another off. The breaks leave them refreshed and eager to come back to it. Of course, all interactions with our dogs are really training opportunities but let's keep the formal and focused ones to a maximum of 5 days a week.
Progress at Your Dog's Pace
AAAD cannot emphasise enough that you must work this at your dog's pace! Some dogs will take several sets of repetitions for each objective, others will take just a few. Your dog may also progress quickly through some and slower through others. If he is having trouble with a behaviour, look at ways you can make the behaviour easier for him. How can you slice the behaviour into smaller bits that what is presented? Or if he goes through fast, how can you make each step more challenging for him? We want to present a reasonable challenge to the dog that we are working with. Knowing whether to and how to split or add challenge is the art part of training a dog! You will learn it with practice. And please ask your Team for ideas while training! and if you have an idea, please feel free to jump in the discussion with your Team and give your ideas too!
Checklist Keeps you on Track
In all of AAAD classes, there is a checklist of behaviours to keep you focused and know where you are in the process. Click here to download the checklist. [Excel spreadsheet] this might not be compatible with your device
If you add a date to when you complete each objective at each location, the box will fill in with a colour. You will need to save the checklist to a folder on your own computer. Then you can edit it and save changes. If you make changes here, the changes will be lost.
Here is the pdf format as well. You can print it off and fill it in manually.
Down the side are the objectives for each game. Across the top are different locations you need to retrain them in. The first 5 are indoor location and the others are outdoor/away from home. They are to help the dog learn to generalise each behaviour. You can train at any level or any objective away from home as long as you have already trained the objectives at home first. Choose locations that are busy ie outside shopping centre insid but out of the way and do not be disruptive.
Each behaviour has a series of objectives. Each objective is a step in the process. Some objectives take several steps to achieve, others just one or two. How far you will need to break the behaviour down will depend on the dog's previous learning history, how willing he is to take a risk and be wrong, the behaviour you are teaching, your response to his response and many more factors. That is where the art of dog training comes in. Sometimes you have to just follow your intuition.
If you think the dog is ready for the next step, test that objective for the behaviour "cold" (on a new training day) and if the dog can do it, she is ready to move on to the next objective. Fill in the date when she accomplishes it and the colour of the space will change to blue. That gives you a visual representation of all the things you have accomplished far. We humans need to see progress too!
Set your self a goal that after every 10 spaces filled in, you will reward yourself with something special. Choose things that are something you'd like to do but don't make time for or would rarely purchase for yourself etc. They can be anything meaningful to you. A special cup of coffee, read a couple of chapters of a novel, a chat with a friend in person or on the phone, a game you like to play etc.
Don't forget to answer questions below each discussion and ask questions too your team is waiting to hear from you.. Participation is key to learning. Talk to yourTeam.