Monday, April 6, 2009

To Refresh or retrain

I often hear people talking about retraining their agility dog to do this or to do that (usually some contact performance behavior). With the greater emphasis being placed on training foundation skills for our dogs in agility I hope that there will be more emphasis on "refreshing" a behavior rather than retraining it.

To clarify: in my mind retraining a behavior means that a new behavior is going to be trained that will replace a behavior that is no longer serving the team. For example if a running contact were taught originally on the contacts and that behavior has eroded into a leaping over the contact zone then one might want to "retrain" the dog to do a 2 on/2 off behavior with a stop on the bottom of the contact. That would be replacing a behavior that is no longer working for the team with a new behavior.

On the other hand "refreshing a behavior" means that a behavior that had been working well in lots of situations has started to deteriorate. This is usually due to a lack of reinforcement or enforcement of the behavior. Sometimes this may happen due to some sort of confusion that has developed on the part of the dog which again would be due to lack of reinforcement or enforcement of the desired behavior. In this instance it is usually best and fastest to go back to how the behavior was originally taught and "refresh" the dog on what is desired. A complete retrain is usually unnecessary in these cases.

This is another reason why having a good foundation on which to build is so important. It makes training and "fixing" problems so much easier!

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