What does learning to learn mean
It’s not unusual to meet people who are impressed with my Jack Russell Boudicca. It wasn’t always this way. Twenty two months ago she came into my life after spending two months at a shelter in Tampa Florida. She was 8 months old.
It didn’t take me long to figure out what problems she had and probably the reason she was given up. She had a laundry list of problems including housetraining, chewing, barking (OMG was she reactive), and lacked any bite inhibition. All modifiable if one is ready, willing and understands what they’re doing.
After several months, that included contemplating giving her back to JRT Rescue I decided to seriously work on all these problems. I had been doing the minimal, management, working on reactive levels, redirecting chewing, establishing bite inhibition and the most difficult was barking mostly associated with novelty and reactivity due to low thresholds, but admittedly the most annoying and difficult to bring under control.
She’s a completely different dog now, but it took a few months requiring serious work but I realized results and modified my thought out plan as needed.
Why was I so successful? I was consistent providing clear rules and consequences for her behavior. I concentrated on rewarding what she was doing right while ignoring or managing undesirable behavior until my strategies and/or replacement behavior paid off. If something wasn’t working, I changed/adapted according to the situation/context.
What Boudicca learned was how to learn, a concept many dog owners don’t even understand and often neglected by many trainers when working with dog owners. Because she loves to play, she’s willing and ready to learn new things and is usually successful no matter what she and I take on.
Currently we are working on turning her into a Frisbee dog; I’m amazed at how good she’s doing in just a few short sessions. This has been made easy by applying other lessons she’s learned performing similarly related activities, so we can generalize new behaviors using the solid foundation already created.
Today, we even drew a crowd, including some cheers and clapping as she simply did what she loves to do, mostly entertaining her! She doesn’t even notice the people; she’s usually so fixated on whatever we’re doing. It’s all about play.
Hediger said, “good training is disciplined play” (1955/1968). Play and training are not contrary, but rather complimentary, dogs and puppies who have not learned that play and training are synonymous will not be willing participants in training because motivationally they are both necessary for success.
Joyce Kesling, CDBC
Certified Dog Behavior Consultant
Dog Trainer, Dog Behavior Specialist