Train For The Test.... Or For Life?


How to approach the SR Test?

Well.... That depends on what your goals are.

If you're just training to get the SR Title requirements met so you can get on to the drive work, you're approach may be different than if you're trying to train for life and the SR Test is an actual test of your tactical skills.

I was talking about this today at club practice with one of the new prospects.

If you are just getting the SR out of the way, then there are a few tricks from the sport world that you can use to get it done. Just make sure that you're not accidentally getting FURTHER away from your goal. 

1- Teach the "routine": If you're trying to teach tactical life skills, this is the OPPOSITE of what you want. Then you'd want a dog that could do any of the skills, in any order for any duration, in any picture. But.... in the sport world.... When you know the pattern that's expected.... You can train for the pattern. Like, in the SR. You can do the sections in the order that they are done. For the time they are required. The dog will pretty quickly realize the deal and will start to settle into the routine. Dogs trained like this can almost run the pattern on their own once you get the ball rolling. And.... That can be a great strategy if you just want to get it out of the way. But.... Like I said... If you want real world skills.... This won't be the way. Cause... The down may not always come neatly between the middle and the front. It may actually come in the middle of the walk. You know? So... Decide your goals. Train towards you desired results. Don't train for the routine if you want real world skills. And don't train for the tactical application of the skills if all you really want is a title to qualify for the games. Your training should ALWAYS reflect your point.

2- Hide the reward: What most competitors will do is warm the dog up with they reward object outside the ring and use a little sleight of hand to drop it off without the dog seeing it. Every rep the dog thinks their gonna get it. They train JUST ENOUGH variable reward schedule to have the dog survive the routine. And... in between competitions.... go back to a more constant reward schedule and rebuild the expectation. This is actually a similar strategy to doing life skills training and not just comp training. But... a little different. In ALL training you have to have a constant enough reward schedule that it creates expectation and persistence. But.... always program in enough tolerance for non reward that they can survive not getting rewarded for every single thing. But.... The real difference is in the idea of tricking the dog into believing that you actually DO have the reward on you. If you're doing rewards based training (and you should be).... You're dog should be working for the possibility of reward. Now.... the essential factor in that is that the dog BELIEVES you have a reward to give!!! In a comp, it's easy. You SHOW the dog you have it. And pass it off on the way in. They're tricked! Or.... use a training vest with the worlds stinkiest unwashed food pocket. They're tricked! Or.... smear liverwurst on your hands like perfume. They're tricked!!! Problem is in the moment where it's a tactical necessity to use your obedience you will not have had the time to trick the dog into thinking you've got the stash BEFORE the emergency arises. You can't wear your Roca training vest ALL the time. This is where training for tactical life skills needs another layer of complexity. You need to TEACH the dog that even though you 100% do NOT have the reward object.... It may still be produced!!! This is where training with indirect rewards can be a huge resource. Also.... doing what I call "Easter Egging" your walk. You set up some reward stashes, whether it's food or toys, along your walk! Then.... In what appears to be random places to your dog..... You stop and ask for a behavior. They will comply, but probably with a little apathy.... They don't think you have anything. But.... when they do.... BOOM, bones rain from the sky. Tug toys from heaven. And they learn that even when you for sure DO NOT have a reward.... you're still likely to produce one out of thin air.

Yeah.... It's sorta the same idea as the first. Convincing them that reward is possible. But.... Instead of teaching them that you HAVE the reward. You're teaching them that even when they KNOW you DON'T.... You still do!!

Anyway...... Decide what you want to accomplish. If it's just bang the SR out and never look back. Train the routine. Pretend you have the stash on you. If you need real world application (like I do) then train the skills. Put in the extra work to generalize the behaviors outside the routine. And convince them that reward is possible even if they're certain it's not ON you.

Now... either way.... Go play with your dog.