The Training Triangle - This Time Training 6 Month Old Pups With Chickens
Updated: Nov 1, 2020
Many new owners of Maremmas are unsure of what actual training really looks like. Recently, we had occasion to evaluate several 6 month old Blush puppies and their behavior around free range chickens, which is a situation they had never been in before. I decided to ask talk advantage of Krysta's lovely handling skills; I provide a narrative of why she makes the training decisions she does, so that you'll know more about what is possible with your own pups when presented with a training opportunity.
In this first video I talk about the "training triangle". I often teach through the use of analogies and visuals; this one is helpful for me. Life happens in a continuum; training is broken down into tiny pieces of behaviors, and looked at that way even complex behaviors can be possible.
Behavior - Marker - reinforcer
If you watch the video below I'll tell you more about this; how it applies to training in general and as we use it with the three pups in the following videos.
As Krysta and I readied the pups for our session we became aware that several of them were in a fear period/sensitive period so she adjusted her training expectations accordingly. You will see her build confidence in the pups through her verbal praise of them - this is not mean to be instructional, but rather just helps convey a sense of good will. She will also M/R specifically to build confidence in many cases, as well as the times she identifies the behaviors around chickens she would like to see more of.
As you watch Krysta notice that her treat hand never moves towards the treat pouch until after she has marked the behavior - this is important. The triangle happens a specific order: behavior - marker - reinforcer. See if you can identify these pieces as you watch and admire Krysta's training skill.
Also notice that she follows the pup, rather than directing him, most of the time. She watches him closely and makes many adjustments of herself for him in terms of speed, where she is in relation to him, such as when a hand on his shoulder may help the pup's confidence, and she watches for very simple behaviors the pup is likely to offer on his own that she can M/R for.
Throughout all three videos you will hear Krysta say "good boy" to the pups - that isn't idle chatter. LGDs own real estate. When she brings a pup into a new area she is ready to praise him for any guardian behaviors. She doesn't need to M/R those behaviors because we have not taught them to the pups; guardian behavior is inherent to them, but we can certainly say thank you at strategic times in recognition of the good choices the pups are making.
This Green pup was calm around the chickens; through his body language he let us know he didn't feel concern in being near the. He also showed no interest in using them as toys, but rather continued to use his nose to take a read on this new area, as he should.
This second pup shows more speed around the birds. My take on his behavior is that he feels a little insecure where he is, because of his current fear period state, and the unusual presence may add to that. Krysta managed his body beautifully; I doubt the pup was even aware of her subtle adjustment of his speed and was quick to M/R the second he paused and gave her a behavior that is right on target for what we are trying to teach him: move slowly around birds.
This third pup shows more speed but it is born of confidence, not insecurity.Because he isn't in as much of a fear period as the other two pups he also feels safe enough to show animated curiosity about the chickens and their living environment. He gets tons of praise from Krysta for this - and absolutely NO cautions. This is super important.
Our evaluations of these pups gave a us a snapshot view of what they could give us on this day at this time - only. It is solid information, and will be considered, but it will also be factored into all that the pup has shown us overt the last six months.
On this day only we liked the Red Tail pup's behavior the best, followed by the Green pup and then the Blue Tail pup.