This week has been super-dooper busy as CBTT5 have been in everyday, for their last week of tuition.
The Canine Behaviour & Training Technician course is the big one! It’s for those who want to become serious, make-a-difference, professionals in canine care, training and behaviour.
It’s delivered over about one year, with learners attending for tuition for two separate block weeks (bookending the course) and four separate weekends. They complete 15 units (subjects) and to successfully graduate must achieve at least 80% in each unit.
To say that this is a tough course is a bit of an understatement so just surviving to their last week is in and of itself a MAJOR achievement. Our learners are amazing!
CBTT5, their last week
Decker is ready and waiting to greet the learners on their last week with us for tuition!
We started with Domestication & Selective Breeding, developing an understanding of the effects of our past and current breeding practices has on dogs, their health & behaviour.
The canine genome was mapped in 2004 and since then, our understanding of canine genetics has grown and grown. Dogs are currently ‘cool’ in science right now, and we couldn’t be happier with the wealth of knowledge that is becoming available everyday.
Dogs are an amazingly diverse species, more so than any other, yet dog breeds have become closed gene pools. These very small gene pools can cause a range of problems for modern dogs and only through awareness and education can we see incremental change in improving canine welfare.
We looked at a range of works studying the genetic health of canine populations, the related causes and effects, breed and behaviour, better breeding of modern dogs and we truly challenged our minds illustrating the true complexity of canine genetics.
Next we worked on Advanced Canine Behaviour discussing temperament evaluations, enrichment, the emotional impacts of training & behaviour procedures and principles of behaviour change programs.
Using clips and examples we can work out the causes of and reasons for behaviour – this goes a long way to us developing programs to help pets and their people.
In the clip above, what behaviours do you see? You might see behaviour/s that the dog is doing or maybe that the human is doing.
What causes that behaviour to happen? Looking at what happens just before the behaviour can give us a good idea of what makes that behaviour happen. This tells the animal (dog or human) when to carry out the behaviour.
What happens just after the behaviour? This gives us the reasons for the animal (dog or human) doing the behaviour. This is the why of behaviour.
We use this tool, functional assessment, to help us analyse the things that cause and maintain behaviours including those that might cause problems.
Nobody said this dog training business was going to be easy…!
On our last day we looked at the Biology of Behaviour & Cognition. This complex unit looks at the behaviour from the brain up, starting with studying brain and how it functions to allow animals to carry out behaviours and to learn about their world.
Again, there has been an explosion in studying dogs in terms of their cognitive abilities and we can take full advantage of that to learn as much as we can.
We end our discussion of these vast topics with a look at canine play and the way in which dogs use play signaling in many complex and varied ways.
Play has always puzzled science, labeling it apparently functionless behaviour but play is way more than that. Besides, play is about having fun and that’s often reason enough; just like these happy campers:
With all this studying, analysis and scientific thinking, we sometimes need a reminder as to why we got so immersed in the first place. Because dogs are AWESOME!
So, we spent some time looking at all the reasons that dogs are amazing, all the tremendous highs they bring us and the often, terrible, lows that come from living with and loving dogs:
They make the best friends…
… right to the end (WARNING tissues required):
CBTT5 at Tayto Park
As part of working on their Advanced Canine Training unit, the fabulous people at Tayto Park give our CBTT learners access to their zoo so that we can spend two days working with other species in a new and challenging environment.
Learning applies to all species (capable of learning) so to really test how well CBTT5 can apply this, we practice with prey species like goats, pigs, sheep, donkeys, guanaco and fowl.
Craig, one of the Tayto keepers, spent some time with our learners (thanks Craig!) demonstrating the applications to our training work there. He is working with their female Amur Tiger showing her presenting on cue (when asked), different parts of her body through the fence, for checking and routine care such as vaccination and blood testing. No restraint, force or sedation required!
At all times in this work the animals choose to participate. They are well-fed so will and do move away when they feel like it – this is why we work on the other side of the fence (not just for safety) to ensure that the animals can leave it they want and we can’t really do a lot about it! Ever tried to force a tiger to do something?!
These same techniques can be applied to our pet animals to reduce the need for restraint, force and distress during routine grooming, medical or husbandry care. Just because we can force them, doesn’t mean that we should…
Using targeting to get behaviour is a little like luring, but more complex. We must first teach the animal a targeting behaviour – in this case touching their nose to the wooden spoon. Once they readily offer this targeting behaviour, we can use that to teach further behaviours.
Targeting can be used to hold animals in position without restraint, move them to observe for lameness, for example, move them so that they can be transported or change their position, it can be used to guide the animal up or down so that we can check various processes, and to teach other behaviours.
Donkeys will work for…
When we are working with these animals, finding the right motivator is often challenging as these animals are well fed with a range of foods, have access to their buddies and can move away any time.
It is the learner who decides what they are willing to work for and it’s up to the teacher to work that out!
Here our CBTT5 learners work out that these donkeys will work for grass (picked from close to their enclosure) and scratches to the neck!
CBTT5 use capturing to ‘catch’ the animals doing a behaviour that they want to work with.
After observing the animals, planning their training, they set out to wait for or prompt their subject animals to offer a behaviour: click & treat!
Like this Guanaco, sticking her nose out the gap:
From there, they will reward successive approximations until the animal is offering a bigger, better behaviour, increment by increment. Freeshaping allows for the teaching of some complex behaviours.
Starting out we capture the goat lifting her foot to put it on the fence and by timing our click correctly we can reward the goat for just lifting her foot, then holding it up.
You can see that this is not a linear process – the learner writes the plan for you and the trainer directs the process by rewarding relevant behaviours that the learner chooses to offer.
Check out how much this momma-goat gets the game – at the end you will see there is a delay as we chat about planning – the goat, not getting rewarded for lifting her right goat begins to lift her left foot instead to see if that also works.
Now that’s a learning goat who gets how to operate her environment – the goal of teaching YAY!
By capturing the Guanaco’s look-around-the-other-side-of-the-pole behaviour, we can freeshape a game of peek-a-boo.
Rewarding her looking at the other side of the pole over and over, soon she will begin to offer that behaviour consistently.
Then we can begin to reward this behaviour at our side of the pole and soon the Guanaco will move back and forth, playing peek-a-boo!
Take a bow, Guanaco
Using the bars on the fence we can measure our progress with this Guanaco, teaching her to lower her head more and more.
To put that on cue CBTT5 learners keep practicing until the Guanaco is consistently offering the behaviour.
Just before she bows, we can add our cue (a human bow!) and only reward her bowing behaviour if offered after our cue.
Donkey Head Lift
Freeshaping a head lift behaviour by rewarding the donkeys for lifting their head a little further.
We can use the bars of the fence to measure our progress and reward and build.
With the head lift behaviour we can add our own twists to get some very sweet behaviours.
By rewarding a higher head lift we have taught the donkey to give a kiss on cue (“gimme a kiss”) and use our kissy noise as the marker (instead of the clicker) and then reward with some yummy grass.
By beginning to reward a slight head turn when the donkey lifts her head she is soon offering a head tilt. A human head tilt is used as a cue for this very cute behaviour.
Dogs will help us a lot in our training, making up for deficits in mechanical skill. Working with animals who can take-us-or-leave-us, in an environment where we have less control really helps us to identify and perfect any areas that need improvement. We all really appreciate teaching dogs after that!
We are so lucky to have such fantastic support from the Tayto Park team, who open their doors and accommodate us, even though the park may be closed, undergoing renovations and the staff all very busy.
We always have a great time and our learners really benefit from this unique experience.
Just for fun…
…here’s 30 seconds of five day old baby Pygmy Goats frolicking: