Today’s topic is: Precision training isn’t practical. When I’m training with my clients, I’m trying to set them up to do useful things with their dogs. We try to get their dogs to understand how to meet other people, walk nicely in the neighborhood, how to come away from the front door or maybe they’re in their backyard. And how to stay so they’re not getting into trouble in the kitchen and the living room.
Now, those things are highly practical and incredibly useful. And I feel that practically everybody should be teaching their dogs how to do this. But then I also am involved, like many other people are, in dog sports. And in those dog sports, we don’t just need the practicality part of it, but we need the dogs to perform with precision.
And so what I want to share today is that there is a big difference between precision training and training the dog in a practical way. So in precision training, I’ve noticed other trainers, and myself have to be particularly skilled at timing. The timing has to be exceptional. Secondly, the targets that you’re aiming your dog at, the specific things that you want your dog to do, they’re small. And three, you have to have a very good understanding of who your dog is and what motivates them.
You’ll get some motivation if you can guess and somewhat understand what they like. But when you understand what your dog loves the most and you deploy that over and over, you can produce some beautiful-looking pictures.
So the problem with all that is that when you’re trying to raise a dog and want a performance animal, you also want the practicality of doing those other things. Those two things don’t always mesh up so well. I know from experience with my dogs. Right now I am trying to balance out how Alpha and Jericho behave. I have the practical stuff that I need them to have, including having manners in my home. And then I have the precision stuff that I’m doing in my backyard and on the training field.
Let me give you an example. So this morning, I trained with all three of my dogs. When I was training with them for their 15-20 minute session, we were working on performance. And I was very picky about what I was having them do. Then during the middle of the day, a nurse came to my home to see my mother, who is recovering from a broken leg. (Hopefully, she’ll be walking soon).
Anyway, when the nurse came, I brought Jericho out, and I worked some specific drills where he had to eat food from my hand. And then I put him on a place bed. He had to stay there while the nurse conversed with my mother and me.
And so that training wasn’t exact, but it was efficient for the training that I did in the morning. You really can’t use that to solve problems like I just talked about, but it sure does get you a lot of points whenever you go and compete with the dog. So all I guess I’m trying to tell you all is if you’re getting a puppy or you have a dog, and you want to do both of those things, it can be done. But the training for those two things looks different.
If you want excellent heads-up behavior in your heeling, for instance, then going for long walks in your neighborhood is maybe something that you don’t want to do. If you want your dog to be supremely attentive to you anywhere and everywhere you go, you’ll have to do a lot of sessions with food and with the dog’s favorite toys. You’re showing the dog how to move its body and how to pay attention to you. Yes, you’ll have to leave home at some point to be able to expose the dog to distractions. But a lot of stuff needs to be done in controlled environments early on before you progress.
Whereas the practical stuff of walking in the neighborhood and all of that and getting the dog acclimated, yes, they should be doing all of that. But if that’s all they did, they would lose a significant time in the dog’s development to make those connections in the dog’s brain, about how to do some specific things with its body while it was easy.
So that’s it, you can do both. Just understand that precision training isn’t always practical.