Here’s a fun video from dog trainer Donna Hill. In the video, you’ll see some of the steps she used to teach her dog to run a barrel racing pattern. The video shows the individual component behaviors that Donna taught first and then illustrates how she used back chaining to create the final behavior.
Watch on Youtube: Barrel Racing with Dogs
Running the correct pattern around the three cones is a fairly complex behavior. However, any behavior (including this one) becomes much easier to teach to an animal if the trainer can identify all of the necessary component skills, teach each piece separately, and then systematically put all the pieces together.
I liked this video because Donna included some of the component skills that she had to teach first. I think it’s a great reminder that before training starts, it is important for the trainer to take the time to analyze the behavior that will be trained and to try to identify the necessary pre-requisite behaviors and component behaviors that the trainer will need to teach first.
Think of a behavior that you are currently training to one of your animals. What are all of the individual skills and component behaviors that the animal needs to understand in order to be able to successfully perform the final behavior?
Often trainers get into trouble because they “lump.” Lumping means that the trainer is trying to teach too big of a step all at once. (More on lumping in this post.) The animal gets confused or frustrated because he does not know or understand what he is suppose to be doing. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s always good to take a step back and reevaluate your training plan. What you thought was a logical next step might have actually been quite confusing to the animal. Often, this is because the animal is missing an important component behavior or pre-requisite skill.
Have you ever taught your dog (or horse or other critter) to barrel race around cones or barrels while you stood in one spot? If so, I’d love to hear if you taught it this way or a different way.