I'd like you to take a moment to think back to when you got your driver's license. Did you write your test and get that little piece of paper and hop behind the wheel without your parent or guardian in the passenger seat, hop on the 401 (or some other insanely busy and high-speed freeway and drive through a rainstorm in the dark?
No. You probably did not. (Okay, if you did...please don't tell me - that would cause me the worst anxiety!)
When learning a new skill, there is so much more than downloading the data to your hard drive and putting it to use seamlessly. We are not computers and we are just not built that way!
Here's how we usually learn to drive:
- Study the book to understand the rules of the road
- Learn the basics of operating a vehicle (gas, brake, signals, lights, wipers, gears, etc...)
- Take a written test (we call this a G1 in Ontario) - if you pass, you can drive with a license-holder or driving instructor
- Drive in an empty parking lot in broad daylight
- Drive on quiet side streets in broad daylight
- Drive on busier main streets in broad daylight
- Drive on highways in broad daylight
- Drive on freeways in broad daylight
- Drive on quiet side streets in the evening or at night
- Drive on busier main streets in the evening or at night
- Drive on highways in the evening or at night
- Drive on freeways in the evening or at night
- Take a driving test with an evaluator (we call this a G2 in Ontario) - if you pass, you can drive alone!
- Continue practicing with or without a trusted license-holder or driving instructor
- Take another driving test with an evaluator (we call this a G in Ontario) and enjoy a full-class license.
Not as easy as it sounds, right? Well...imagine being a dog and having to learn new skills and then generalise them to different environment, take direction from different handlers, understand cues from people with different accents or hand gestures, and contend with distractions or stressors in the environment.
Dogs do not generalise skills nearly as well as we do. This is not their strong suit.
We are nowhere near as patient with our dogs while they learn as we would be with a 16-year old child as they learn to drive. We tend to think that once we've taught the skill to the dog, they should be able to perform it perfectly, on cue, every time we ask. It's a strange expectation!
So let's be patient with our dogs as they learn. Let's know that one person will work with them through these plans and then the next person will most definitely have to start at the very beginning and work their way up through the plans without expectation. Every dog-human relationship is different and requires care.
Make a list of the people who most often care for the dog. These are your new variables for generalisation! One person should work through the full plan first and when successful, the next person can start at the beginning and work their way up until successful.
DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 16 WORK THROUGH THESE EXERCISES UNTIL ALL THE ADULTS IN THE HOME HAVE DONE IT AND CAN GUARANTEE THAT THE CHILD WILL BE SAFE TO DO SO.
CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 12 SHOULD NEVER PERFORM THESE EXERCISES WITH A DOG WHO HAS A HISTORY OF GUARDING.
ALWAYS WORK WITH A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL TRAINER WHEN CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED.