Did you ever have a conversation with someone, and you thought you were talking about the same thing, and at some point, you realize you may not be? I always think of the credit card commercial with “Frog Protection” or is it “Fraud Protection”? Frog/fraud/frog/fraud, then they both agree they are talking about the same thing, makes me laugh every time:
Just stating the obvious, right? At times this can be what happens in dog training. We may think that our dog understands what we want, they may even be doing what we want, and then there comes a moment when they do the unexpected and we are shocked. What we may not realize is that we weren’t talking about the same thing at all.
This happened to me at a match recently. I had Maggie in utility, things looked good, and I went to do articles and she did a great set up to heel, nice turn, ran right out, circled the pile like I had taught her that and ran in to try and front. Wow! I didn’t reward, and we did it again and she did fine, but that told me something important, we were not on the same page! We were saying “articles?” and “articles” to each other and not talking about the same exercise. What I think happened is that I had built a lot of value into my fronts, as I had been working them a lot lately. So when she got out to the pile of articles, the next most reinforcing thing for her to do was to try and front, whoops! I would have thought it was obvious that I needed the scent discrimination/retrieve, but she told me it was not. So, next training plan, please!
I set up a situation where I sat across from her with the pile of articles between us and my treats sitting next to me, thinking this would be a nice easy way to explain how important the discrimination/retrieve was, even with food right there. Well, I was as surprised as if I was the frog owner buying fraud protection! Nope, right past the pile to a nice sit. Um, okay. I took out ½ the articles, nada, nothing. Jump over the articles! I got down to a pile of 3 and the rewards hidden and more space, and she got it. I wish I would have been taping, but I thought it would be actually too boring of a session to tape! Not so. She told me in no uncertain terms that in this picture, fronting was worth more than working that pile. So we stayed there and got success and rewards on the discrimination and retrieve. Then I added a few articles back in the pile.
Here is our 3rd session. You can see it still needs work, and I can do a lot more proofing, but for right now we are going to stay here and build value on the pile and her working it:
Next time something surprising happens in your training session, take a moment and think, “Frog? Fraud”? It may not be as obvious as it seems!