Training with a  Plan

HOW TO USE WRITTEN TRAINING PLANS

When training, always refer to a written training plan, like the ones provided in the PRR Toolkit. Written training plans lay out a detailed path from what an animal can do right now, to what you’d like them to do at the end of training. 

 

Written training plans increase training efficiency because the next step in training is always clear. We recognize how critical efficient training is in time- and resource-constrained shelters and rescues.

HOW TO CREATE A TRAINING PLAN

We’ve provided many standard training plans here, but you may need to create your own from time to time. A written training plan starts by defining the goal behavior at the end of training.  All “must have” details should be included, such as where the new behavior needs to happen, for how long, in the presence of what distractions, for what type of cue. 

 

The first step in the plan is the version of the goal behavior that the animal can do now. Following steps increase difficulty slowly until the goal behavior is reached.

GUIDELINES

Review the goal behavior. 

Make any adjustments needed to reach your specific goal behavior. For example, if you are working with the Sit-Stay Plan for Movement Triggers, & the dog you’re working with lunges at skateboards, include skateboards both in the goal behavior & in the training plan.

Attempt the suggested number of repetitions.

Resist the urge to make it easier for the animal after 1-2 failures, or to jump ahead after 1-2 successes. Sticking to the rules (below) will keep you organized and make your training more efficient.

Follow the rules. 

Do five identical repetitions at each step, and use the “grading rules” to decide what to do next. For most plans, the grading rules are: 

  • 2 right or fewer out of 5: drop back to the previous step;

  • 3 right out of 5: repeat another set of 5 repetitions of the current step;

  • 4 or 5 right out of 5: proceed to the next step.

Track your progress. 

Keep notes on where you are in your training plan, and keep notes on splits (see below). Include any other details you want to remember later. This is especially important if other staff or volunteers will be training the same animal.

What if I get stuck?

GETTING STUCK MIGHT LOOK LIKE:

4-5

out of 5 

right

step

1

1

PUSH

0-2

out of 5 

right

step

2

DROP

4-5

out of 5 

right

step

1

PUSH

0-2

out of 5 

right

step

2

For example, in the Basic Sit-Stay Plan, an extra step might be needed in between step 2 (a food distraction held 1-2’ away from the dog’s nose for 3 seconds) and step 3 (a food distraction placed on the ground).  

 

Step 2

Step 3

There might be more than one possible in-between step, and any might work well. It’s up to you to choose which might work best for you. A commonly used “in-between” step here is to bend halfway toward the ground with the food distraction.

 

In-between step

If the animal won’t pay attention to you at all & you’re struggling with even the simplest step you can come up with, the animal might be fearful, or unmotivated. See Troubleshooting Motivation.

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