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.

10 comments:

Julie said...

Great post Robin. I think your training articles are great. Maybe at some point you'll have to gather them all together in one spot on your blog site (for easy access for the rest of us!).

J.

Robin French said...

Actually, just today i went through and got the tags straightened out to do that easily. If you go the bottom right corner of the blog page and click on "training article", they all pop up. I'll make it a more prominent link later. Glad you like them!

Robin French said...

Actually, looks like it's more like in the middle of the page on the right. I'll move it around this evening. Time to go hack out thistles right now.

Rahcle said...

You are great with making us novice peeps understand. Now if I could only put the understanding into actions, that would be great! I guess it is that "timing" you talk about all the time! ;)

Robin French said...

Glad you're enjoying them Rachel! Thanks for the feedback, makes me think maybe i'm not just writing to hear myself type. ;-)

Becca Shouse said...

Cool article. I'm slowly going through these - not as good as being THERE, but a close second. Weird that I was actually thinking about this very idea today while working Bet. There's such a fine line with her between an effective verbal correction and actually putting her out of the work, which she hates. But the difference between getting it and not getting it is so huge that it's doing a lot for my timing I think. Maybe! :)

Donna said...

I always learn so much from the things you write ( and say !) I am already looking forward to your next article! :-)

Thanks!
Donna
(now that I figured out that I can post comments without joining google..I'll try to leave a few here and there! :-)

Robin French said...

Glad you guys are enjoying them!

Laura said...

I'm a bit late commenting here, but I just wanted to echo the comments that this is a great post, Robin. I've never thought of it quite like that (that corrections should both stop what's happening in the moment and act as a deterrent for the future), and it's a great, simple way to check myself. My corrections are not always as effective as they could be, so I look forward to working with this in mind :-)

Robin French said...

Great! I'll try to get another together this week sometime.