Phone Interview with CTS President, Doug Calhoun, and Dave Kroyer.
Q: One of the notable characteristics of your training method or approach is in foundation work and training on the dog’s agenda. Can you explain what that means and why it’s so important to your system?
A: Sure, it’s a common question and problematic for a lot of people. There are some really basic things I believe are critical in the very beginning that set the stage and create a platform for life long learning. Because the road to a competitive level of work is so long, it’s really important that the dog in invested in training and participates in learning. It’s a real pet peeve to see people cheerleading a dog into showing interest in work and the dog eventually comes to rely on it as a part of the routine.
I like to begin working with dogs as young as 7 weeks on their agenda. I control access to everything they need and develop a relationship surrounding play, feeding and social interaction. I think it’s important to socialize dogs but I structure interactions around a consistent schedule to create predictability for the dog. I want him to expect what’s coming at a certain time, to become conditioned to it. I’m present during all of these times feeding, playing and structuring events so that outcomes will benefit our relationship and learning.
Q: What type of predictability do you want to condition?
A: I want the dog to know that when I come to get him and place him in a “staging area” like a kennel or trailer, that the very next thing that will happen is full of positive experiences. I try to condition this from the beginning around times that the dog will need to be interacted with- when feeding, playing or just going for a walk. Over time, this very basic procedure will become powerful in the dog’s mind. His drive and energy will peak and I use this to my advantage. I use his energy and interest in this time with me to begin shaping behaviors with his rations of food and at separate times play as well.
Q: Why is this approach so critical from a young age?
A: Dogs establish patterns of behavior and it’s easier to direct things in the direction you want from the beginning than it is to modify behaviors later. I see a lot of dogs at seminars that know many behaviors in the hands of clever trainers. I often see dogs that fall away from an interest in work when things get difficult. I’ve seen some very well bred pups that show tremendous aptitude for sport work with great drives, character and stability. Seeing them periodically over time, I’ve seen them become independent with less engagement than I’d like to reach their potential. A few simple daily structural changes would make a huge difference.
It’s important to remember that when you’re the administrator of food, playtime and exercise, really anything the dog needs, you become very important. Rewarding interactions directed toward you strengthens them and they’ll occur more often. This is the basis of long-term training and really critical for any type of performance sport.
We’ll continue our talk with Dave here with a series of talks we’ve already had. Coming next is a look at Dave's unique approach to Nose Work. It’s easy to follow the blog as a feed by signing up to get the RSS feed to the right. It will come directly to your inbox and you won't miss an installment.