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Specifics of a Training Program (Plan)
    by Charles McCurley 


GOAL

The Plan is designed to develop a confident and strong dog that approaches all situations with a successful attitude and not to teach the dog just the trial exercises.

The Plan itself must be in writing and available at the training sessions for utilization, guidance, review, and revision. The Plan must have short-term and long-term goals and objectives. Lastly, the handler must write the Plan.

 Recognize that input can come from coaches, seminars, training partners, or spotters (observers) and gather this information for use. Recognize good teachers and learn from them; listen to what they have to say. Too often people talk over the person attempting to share his/her knowledge. Many times the person asking the question will begin to expound on his/her knowledge before the question asked can be answered. How can one share information or learn in this type of interaction? Also recognize bad information and who is not a good teacher or only has half the information correct. Realize that there are many ways to train and look for similarities between other styles and plans that are like yours. For instance, another trainer may call a particular behavior or exercise by a different name than you, but if you really look close, it may be similar to what you do or how you go about accomplishing it. Reflect on the information and decide if it fits your plan, dog, style, and abilities! Unconnected training tips or ideas that have no progression or do not link together are not a plan. Knowing the goal helps show if the work is successful or not in that practice session. Understand that the Plan will be modified, evolve, change, and progress.

THE DOGíS TEMPERAMENT

Identify the temperament of the dog. What is the dogís stronger drive (i.e. food drive, prey drive, etc.)? Evaluate the limitations of the dog. This is important for you to know in order to understand what your dog is capable of and what motivates the dog. This helps make training easier on you and the dog. If you see that a toy does not motivate your dog, utilize what does motivate the dog.

TRAINING GOALS FOR PRACTICE

    1)  Identify the training goals for that practice
    2)  Handler should:
          a)  Have a clear picture of how to achieve the goals (know what actions are required) for themselves and the dog.
          b)  Find ways to offset bad results and improve the training session.
          c)  Recognize when it is time to stop-especially when there has been success. 

ANALYZE THE WORK AND THE GOAL OF THE PRACTICE

    1)  Determine what the training coach and handler can do to create success and achieve the goals.
    2)  Co-ordinate and communicate clearly.
    3)  Training coach must:
          a)  Determine his role (cheerleader, teacher, coach-what is most effective for the handler).
          b)  Evaluate handler and determine his needs.
    4)  Review notes from the previous session for effective methods and less effective methods.
    5)  Handler must note whether outside influences are affecting the dog (particularly things that may behappening away from
          practice). 

 RECOGNIZING AND ANTICIPATING THE DOGíS REACTIONS

If the handler and coach recognize the dog works strongly and is showing signs of learned behavior with no problems, then the plan should advance. If problems appear, then the coach and handler must adjust the training plan quickly. Recognize the signs of poor performance and avoidance behavior. Understand if the poor performance or avoidance behaviors are from inexperience or problems with the task or training method. Know beforehand what the dogís reaction will be before stepping out onto the field. Understand the root cause of problems and nature of it before trying to experiment with fixes. Understanding why the dog is refusing to do an exercise-or is doing it poorly-is key. For example, the dog sits slowly when signaled to do so. Itís obvious that the dog is sitting slowly, but is the underlying cause of the slow sit due to health reasons or is it perhaps that the dog is experiencing conflict and confusion thinking that it should be downing?

EXAMPLE OF INTERACTION BETWEEN HANDLER AND COACH

Handler and coach identify what is to be the focus of the training session before bringing the dog out.

    Handler: I would like to teach my dog the sit and down etc. etc. 

    Coach: What is the goal for this sessionís training?

    Handler: The goal: I would like for my dog to understand the concepts of the sit and down, or I would like for my dog to sit fast
                       and straight. For the downs, I would like for my dog to down on the first command etc. etc.

    Coach: How will you do this (i.e. what methods or actions will you utilize)?

    Handler: I will use food, and I will move this way or that utilizing these steps A, B, C (of your chosen training method). 

    Handler: I need assistance with making sure that I reward correct behavior appropriately.

Following that session the handler and coach can review and identify what areas need adjustments, improvements, or if it is time to move on to the next phase or step of the overall goal.

A BRIEF SUMMARY:

∑ Identify the task that is being taught or performed.
∑ Identify the goal of that session or task.
∑ Identify the methods or actions of the handler to facilitate the task.
∑ Post-training discussion of what just transpired.
∑ Based on the information, decide what the task and goal will be for the next training session. 

Many of the top and great trainers have written plans to which you can refer. They may not drag them out to practice every single time due to their vast experience, but most have them and refer to them more often than one would think. Hopefully these tips will assist with training and achieving your goals with your pet.

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  This article has been republished with the consent of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America who originally published this article in its bi-monthly magazine. For more information on Schutzhund or membership with the United Schutzhund Clubs of America please visit their website www.GermanShepherdDog.com.