Create a tiny routine

To be honest, I didn’t want to make my first routine. There are so many behaviors I enjoy working on, and some are still mid-process, so I was busy enough already. I asked, “Do I have to?”, and was given a non-negotiable “Yes!”. Kathy made it as painless as possible by drafting a routine, written on a chart with the words and music broken into sequences (along with the edited music). Class involved working through some of the segments. Her brilliant plan ended up with all of us rewriting everything and making it our own.  Not everybody made it through to completion, but that’s to typical. Many a training endeavor is not seen through to the end.

The students from my Tricks 1 Class just got the assignment to create a tiny routine for our last week. This is my 1st time experimenting with such a task for an introduction level class. The process of completing a routine has been called by some THE MOST DIFFICULT dog training endeavor there is…and I agree. So, getting into the details about this training will be well beyond the scope of this class. But, still, I have a suspicion that it is a smart challenge to throw at them. It should prove very educational.

If you’d like to play along at home, pick behaviors your dog knows well. You don’t want to lump your criteria when you have more splitting to do! For most of you, one of the behaviors probably ought to be Sit. Judging by what I see in average pet dog owners, “Sit” might be one of the only things your dog knows how to do fluently (“Down” often is a bit of a disaster, and I think “Stand” is plain scary to most).

If you let your dog practice the sequence, you will have an easier time with the chain. However, letting your dog pattern and predict rather than having behavior on stimulus control can threaten success if you want to use those tricks in other chains of behavior, particularly if those sequences will regularly be rearranged. So, for someone who wants to put together freestyle routines, training strong stimulus control and proofing that the dog is listening and not guessing or predicting takes a lot of training attention. If you just want to casually have a sequence of parlor tricks, you can lean on the dog anticipating the pattern to make them stronger (and might subsequently be able to train in extra difficulties like doing it at a distance or more independently of your direction).

Having a little mini-routine has benefits beyond its entertainment value. It is a great way to allow your dog to be included socially without having to be handled (which some dogs don’t care for). It can help disarm those who fear dogs. A familiar routine can help a dog feel more sure when the setting makes them feel less confident. And the praise goes to both ends of the leash. Make a video and show off your talents…goodness knows I don’t do that half as much as I should. Speaking of, there are plans to…now if I can just find some extra time 😉

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