Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Training: What is a Correction?
I think corrections are one of the most seriously misunderstood parts of sheepdog training for novice trainers/handlers. There's a lot to a proper correction - timing, pressure, reaction, etc. It might be helpful to stop and think about what a correction actually is. The purpose of correcting a dog is to change behavior. For example, if i correct a dog for inappropriate gripping, he should not only stop the actual in-progress bite, he should think twice about doing it again because what he was doing didn't get him what he wanted - to work unimpeded. He should also let go of the sheep and *do something different* or offer another behavior so he can start to learn a new, more appropriate pattern or habit. Many times we see ineffective corrections, where the trainer repeatedly yells "get out of that" (or some other magic phrase), and the dog just keeps on doing what he was doing, effectively teaching the dog to tune out his handler's corrections. Bad idea there (and a topic for another day)! We also see overdone corrections, where the severity of the correction is too much for the infraction - the dog shuts down instead of offering a different behavior.
What your dog does after a correction will tell you if you're correcting effectively, so read your dog. Are you getting all three of the things you need to see in a good correction:
1. The inappropriate action stops immediately
2. The dog offers a different behavior immediately
3. The dog offers a different behavior over time
Corrections should be instructive for your dog. It may even help to think of them as *constructive* criticism.