It has been a crazy (good kind, I think) week coming off of one of the biggest events of the year in the life of many positive reinforcement dog trainers: Clicker Expo 2017 in Portland, OR. Over three days of dog nerds from around the country geeking out together to the genius of the gods of the positive reinforcement training world, an impressive lineup including Ken Ramirez, Dr. Susan Friedman, Kathy Sdao, Hannah Branigan, and so many more!
Charissa and I came back from this immersion with lots of new ideas and inspirations. Some of these ideas may not seem so practical once we come down off the CE high induced by exposure to the greats of our industry and a significant lack of sleep, but we'll see. It was a wonderful trip.
Attending training conferences also never fails to inspire me to fine tune my training with my own dog. Roo is a wonderful pup, and as much of my time and energy is devoted to helping other humans and their dogs build positive relationships together, he often gets the short end of the stick. But after Kathy Sdao encouraged us to consider taking more time to do activities that "keep our candle burning," I am trying to be more intentional about spending time with my own heart dog - he is, after all, one of the reasons I love training as much as I do!
The first concept I put into action was based on Hannah Branigan's presentation "High Precision, High Scores." In this lecture, she broke down the behaviors sit, down and stand and discussed how to get the precision movements you need in order to offer peak performance in the obedience and rally ring. I decided I should go back and take a look at how my dog performs the "sit" behavior to see if he was doing it the most efficient (and precise) way. Turns out, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but still could use a little bit of improvement! Here's our first session working on this. I am selecting for a "tucked" sit where his hind legs come up to meet his stationary front legs instead of a "rock-back" sit where his front feet follow his rear back.
Next, we tried some concept training, inspired by Ken Ramirez's lab on this topic. We started with Match to Sample, which is teaching the dog to indicate the object that is the same as the object you present to them. Roo had this concept in less than a 10 minute training session, and I started introducing novel objects as well. This game is built on other skills (follow a target, settle at station, respond to a cue, etc.) that we have worked on previously. Check this out!
How cool is that?! Can't wait to see what else he learns next.
These are just a few of the fun tidbits we brought back from Clicker Expo. We can't wait to improve our class curriculum, our behavior modification protocols, and our client interactions based on our new ideas. Learning new things helps us to be the best that we can be, and we can't wait to pass along that benefit to our students and their dogs!