Ready to Learn

This is a protocol that I use to determine if my dog is ready to train or learn something new. I introduce the reinforcement strategy that I am going to use for that session before beginning the actual training session. Read below to develop your town RTL routine!

We talked about in the Ready to Work lesson, how we want to assess our dog’s readiness before we ask them to run an agility course. 

We also want to assess their readiness during training sessions. 


I am going to call this “Ready to Learn”. Shrek has taught me to keep things super clear, and so I have stopped using his “ready to work” protocol when I am going to train (and use reinforcers on my body). 


To ask my dog if they are “ready to learn”, I am going to use the reinforcement strategy for that training session as a baseline behavior. 


In these examples, I am using “get” as my baseline behavior, because I will be using tossed cookies to reinforce the skill that I am going to train. 


Here is an example where the latency is very high; Shrek is taking a long time to come back to the station after eating a tossed cookie. I would say that this dog is not in an optimal state for learning. 

In this example, the latency is very low; Shrek is returning to the station before he’s even swallowed his cookie. This dog is in the optimal state to learn in.

Even if you still use a Ready to Work protocol before a training session (this is 100% ok!), I would begin each training session by asking your dog about the smallest piece of your behavior loop: the reinforcement strategy piece of the loop. 


If you start this way, you can potentially choose to change the reinforcer of that training session before you begin. Have you ever set out to use a toy in training, you do the first rep, and it was BEAUTIFUL, and you toss the toy, and your dog looks at you like “what the what is that?”. If you had started with a “ready to learn” loop of a thrown toy, you would have seen that your dog isn’t interested in the toy under those conditions, and then you can change your plan without potentially attaching some feelings of disappointment to your agility behavior. 


Remember, if your dog can’t take or doesn’t want the reinforcer you have to offer, you cannot affect the behavior in a positive way!