Thursday, April 24, 2008

Great Expectations

On Tuesday, I spent time with Team Training at Helping Paws. Team Training is the period just before graduation where the graduating dogs and their new partners learn how to become a partnership.

It being the first week of Team Training, there is a lot of "lecture" as well as lab (and golden) time. Listening to the instructors describe the methods used to train the dogs, I found myself wishing I could audit the class. Just sit and listen and reabsorb all the lessons learned and shared with our upcoming graduates.

I've been thinking about "expectation" - something that each of the instructors touched on during the course of their presentations. Specifically, how to communicate the expected performance of a cue given to the dog. For example, one of the hardest things I've had to train myself NOT to do, is repeat a cue when Belle doesn't immediately respond. The reasons behind her delay in responding may vary - the cue was given in a confusing manner, i.e. sitdrop. The dog, reasonably enough, is probably asking, "which is it - sit or drop"? Sometimes, she's distracted. Sometimes, either she or me is just on our "C" game. Whatever the reason, it's easy to repeat the cue. The problem is, the dog begins to expect that repetition - and yes, dogs can count. Before you know it, the dog doesn't even think about performing the cue until you've gotten to the third or fourth or whatever repetition it is where your voice now means business.

Lowering the binoculars and looking at "expectation" from a macro perspective is even more intriguing. What is my overall expectation of my partnership with my dog? Is it an expectation of trust? Of uncertainty? Does it vary depending on our location or activity?

The answer to the last question is key to understanding the struggles Belle and I are having with her behavior at home - specifically, when visitors arrive. In public, I've always had the highest expectations for Belle's behavior. I'm focused on her and our partnership together. At home, I'm much more distracted. More focused on "doing my thing". Belle has responded accordingly - and true to her exuberant personality, with pure Tigger enthusiasm. Unfortunately, most people are like Rabbit and just don't appreciate the "bouncy, pouncy, full of fun, fun, fun" result.

The answer is the easy part, however. The real work is in figuring out how to change my expectations and communicate the new world order to her. Any suggestions?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Consistency - Consistency - Consistency- Consistency - Consistency - Consistency