REPETITION, REPETITION , REPETITION !
Why is it that the top sport competitors whether it be Schutzhund or athletics always get the results that they do so consistently? Simple, the answer is repetitive training, i.e. each sportsman will spend hours after hours practicing their routine.
This constant repetition is not only important for good results in a competitive environment but in everyday life also for your normal pet dog.
You see, in order to learn anything new a human needs at least 7 repetitions to understand what is required and how to do it confidently; on the other hand a dog needs at least 30 repetitions! And then again that is just to learn the exercise, it does not guarantee that it will do it reliably unless you “proof “ the exercise under various conditions and with distractions . Yes , you guessed it : more repetitions !
Sounds simple , doesn’t it ? There is a downside to constant repetitions for a dog : anticipation and also boredom . In some instances we want anticipation .e.g. the sit on the halt in the heelwork but in general we want to avoid it . But let us get back to the big one : boredom . A dog will easily get bored with an exercise if not motivated enough to do it and with boredom comes mistakes from the dog and lack of attitude . Mistakes often lead to corrections which in turn will stress the dog unless he is brought out of the pressure with motivation or drive . Is a mistake the dog’s fault or did the handler not do enough repetitions with the dog to teach the exercise correctly ? Back to boredom , how do we avoid it ? Well , keep training brief and fun . Work for a few minutes , give the dog a break and then do another short session . Frequent short training sessions are much more beneficial than one long session . Let me give an example : the halt ( or automatic sit as some trainers might call it ) . The dog will learn the halt much faster if you walk a long line ( say about 50 paces ) with halts every 5 paces ( 10 repetitions ) instead of only doing the halt after 50 paces every time you do a training session .
Now let’s go back to these 30 repetitions for a dog to learn a new exercise . This does not only apply for obedience but for everything in the dog’s life . One will often go to a Schutzhund trial and see an enthusiastic “hobby” competitor very disappointed with his dog’s poor tracking performance . On further enquiry , you find out that he only tracks once a week , sometimes twice . For a dog to track reliably , it needs to track a minimum of 3 to 4 times a week every week ( remember repetitions ) .Think about it ; if you track once a week and it takes 30 repetitions then it would take at least 30 weeks for the dog to learn something new on the track ! Change the tracking to 3 times a week and you reduce the learning period to 10 weeks . Now you see the importance of repetitions .
Repetitions will also help in stopping or extinguishing unwanted or undesirable behaviors that you do not want . But in order for this to be successful , the repetitions have to be kept up or else the dog will regress back to the unwanted behavior within a matter of weeks . That is why dogs often go back to their old bad habits in training when they come back from a rest period or break of a few weeks or months .
The same is true for protection work . Some exercises just have to be done over and over in order for the dog to be comfortable with the execution of the desired action such as running hides or even the hold and bark .Other aspects of protection work that need constant repetitive work include : grip , the out ( if you have a strong-willed dog ) , control exercises such as rear escorts and disarming of helper . Personally I am a big believer of doing a lot of regular work especially with young dogs and puppies as this is where the imprinting is done . The sooner you can instill a love for protection work and teach the puppy the basics of prey drive and grip work , it will save you a lot of hard work down the line when the dog matures and is ready to start work in defense . It seems some people believe in only working their dog in protection work every few months instead of 2 to 3 times a week but in the end because of lack of regular repetitive training and foundation building in the learning phase at the start of the dog’s life ; the basics are not well imprinted in these dogs and they often fall apart at the seams when it comes to a trial due to higher stress levels .On the other hand , the dog that works regularly from a young age progresses at a good and steady pace ( does not have to be rushed ) so that when it comes to trial age , the bitework basics have been well imprinted and the dog is steadier .
Remember what was mentioned at the start of this article : top athletes will practice their routines and techniques as often as possible so that each movement is performed flawlessly .Why should a dog be any different ?
Article submitted by Jacqueline Glen