When we enter college, we set out a path, but never realize our college education will help us in other ways we never thought possible. That is another value of a college education. People get caught up that it is to get better job, or that it gives you a trade skill. It really is educating you to critically think, to have some insight to what ever comes your way in life and to problem solve.
Learning the science of Positive Reinforcement training has been humbling and frustrating at the same time. Here I have a Bachelor's degree in Zoology, a science, but yet, I get lost in the terminology of Positive Reinforcement training. Over the past fifteen years I have had to be very patient with myself and teach myself a different way. The arrogance on the Internet doesn't help. But, as long as I keep focused what I learned in Chicken Camp and apply it, it really does all come together.
My next step is my training plan. Over the years getting lazy, I now reinforce any behavior. This is not clean training and certainly not focused. How can anyone shape a behavior if you are all over the place? Stick to just one criteria, focus on that only and watch the behavior you are striving and channeling come alive and strong.
So this is where I am right now. Focusing on one behavior. That is, sitting straight and square in front of me after a recall. This is one of the exercises in competition obedience. Mickey is now 6 years old and has developed sloppy sits in front of me. To the average person they are not considered sloppy sits, but to the world of competition obedience they are sloppy sits. His hip shifts to one side and is not in front of me. When I shape this behavior in a session, he will then sit straight in front of me. If I let two days go without shaping this behavior, he goes back to his old habit of being slightly sideways to me.
So the criteria is straight in front of me. Then I say "YES!" and throw the branch. Mickey has an obsession with twigs and small branches, so I use that for a reinforcement. I had to since he just doesn't want to leave them alone, so instead of fighting against the grain, use that to my advantage. Because he's obsessed, he isn't focusing on his training, so I shape him. I need to shape him in all kinds of environments. Calm, inside the house we use food, outside with twigs, we use the twigs. At practice with friends I use food. If Mickey shifts and moves his body straight in front of me, I click/treat or say "YES!" and throw the Kong or twig.
Since we are changing old habits, this will take longer than if he was a young puppy learning this behavior.