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6 Powerful Steps to Optimize Your Dog's Learning

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Why use the Scaffolding technique in teaching dogs?

Small border collie dog puppy learns to climb a log during Puppy Class in Vancouver with Hustle Up Dog Training, Best Dog Trainers Vancouver.
Small border collie dog puppy learns to climb a log during Puppy Class in Vancouver with Hustle Up Dog Training.

Some of the most useful benefits and steps of the scaffolding technique in teaching dogs are outlined here. One of the key components to this dog training technique is clear direction. When dogs begin to learn a new technique, all of the necessary steps are laid out for them in detail, thus eliminating confusion and anxiety. Clear expectations. Dogs are naturally taught this technique by the puppy's parents. Learning through scaffolding, the pup knows exactly what the dog parent expects them to do from the beginning. Gradually increasing independence, motivation and momentum. When we simulate and teach the most understood way a dog learns, results are positive and the collection of information is invaluable. This information from learned success and learned failures is what dogs thrive on when being taught by people.

Responsibility of handler to canine. The way the handler views a task to teach is paramount on the failure or success. A key component that is required from the handler is 100% dedication to the teaching. You must be invested fully, regardless if the task is simple. You, yourself, must be side by side in the investment and success with the dog. (Become one with the dog.)

Scaffolding Strategies to Apply to Your Dog's Education

Scaffolding Strategies To Apply To Your Canine

Here are some ways to implement scaffolding in your teaching.

1. Show and Do

Follow the leader is one of the best ways to teach the canine. Follow the leader is one method of teaching which is where the desired behaviour is shown to a puppy. This is the foundation step for which the pup will begin learning, learn by example with visual teaching. The “show and do” method, is the quickest and most proficient way to walk through the movements. Many videos can be found on where ducklings, kittens, puppies and many other species of animals all within a few days or weeks of being born following a person around. This is a vital step in becoming a guardian to that animal. This imprinting stage is a natural maturing stage and we can learn to benefit more than ever if we invest the time.

2. Leverage Prior Knowledge

You should try to tap into your canine's past experiences and prior knowledge when teaching new concepts. This way, they relate their learning to their lives and the use of utilizing their problem-solving skills. For example, a pup climbs over a small log successfully, but when the same pup encounters a larger log which is too large to climb this is where patience and embracing the teaching to learning module can have a huge failure or success for further obstacles. Problem solving the log for a pup is exciting and troublesome. Three outcomes you can teach are: 1. Assist and aid to climb over the log allowing the puppy to do majority of the effort, 2., Show a route around the tree. Implement “Show and Do” 3., Wait, wait it out allow for the pup to try, possibly cry and whimper, struggle, attempt to climb up and over, achieve an outcome where the pup has exhausted all of the known skills the pup knows. After the puppy has tried its best which could be onwards of 20-plus minutes, then introduce step 1 or 2.

3. Rest

Canines better remember what they learn if they have the time to decompress and review after partaking in a less challenging task. Implement a mundane request such as a sit. A request the canine knows well will not add to the use of brain energy. Immediately review the last task after a break.

4. Physical Praise

Before introducing a new challenge to the canine. Take time to physically praise the canine with touch. Keep the physical praise consistent, length of time, rhythm of pats and or scrunches, praise on body placement should be consistent. This way, when they come across a new or complex task in problem solving, they don’t approach with less confidence. Body placement praise as an example may be three pats to the shoulder with the fourth pat sticking to the dog firmly for two seconds then release hand from the dog’s body, additionally using voice to praise the dog.

5. Practice Pausing

When running a learning session, you may breeze through a lot of learning concepts at once. Example: Sit on a small step without standing up or have a dog learning to walk along a narrow board and become still when you also include a stop request. The dog is now learning multiple skills at once, balance, patience, listening, focus. It’s important to be able to gauge how a dog is absorbing the information. One way to do this is to try the “pause, stop and rest or walk along a sidewalk, pause, review” technique. Design your training in snippets of information and then pause, but give the dog enough mental stimulation to keep the brain active. And then return back to the lesson or task being taught.

6. Promote Success

When introducing a new task or a more advanced request, build off past successes. A question I always ask a dog when I am working with them is “Can you do this?” If are able to guide the dog successfully through the new challenge and you know the dog has the physical ability then you have a responsibility to guide to the point of success. An important note to make is you also have the responsibility to guide the dog at a level which is natural for the dog, not forgetting you are teaching an animal first and foremost. Then the dog may enter the lesson with confidence and the headspace to absorb information if you have confidently walked through these steps. The joy of success for the dog and you shouldn’t be undermined. Celebrate all success appropriately.

Written by Brad Pattison, Dog Behaviourist & Professional Dog Trainer Vancouver

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