What is Foundation Training?

By on March 29, 2020

When we look a structure, we tend to admire it as a finished piece of architecture.  The grand size and scale often grabs our attention and wows us. However, underneath the facade lots of components have been involved in many aspects of no longer visible, structural foundations. These foundations are required to ensure the building is upstanding, can withhold elements and remain over time.

During sporting events we are often in awe of the achievements that can be made, by athletes just physically using their body.  We do not see the effort involved to get to this point. Aspects of which require rigorous planning, excellent nutrition, physical training and mental preparation over a duration.

In summary foundation behaviours are the ESSENTIAL components required to successfully achieve more complex ones.

How does this apply to Animal Training?

Dog foundation training forms a part of all the interactions we have with our animals. For example, whilst out with my dogs, I cue them to recall to me. After their successful return, I think about and evaluate the work and foundation behaviours required, to achieve this now seemingly natural behaviour.  In order to accomplish a reliable recall behaviour, we first need to break the final desired behaviour into its essential components:

  • Attention – physical recognition of a cue in the form of ear movement and visual orientation towards source.
  • Forward locomotion – animal to move towards a presented target.
  • Targeting – animal to make physical contact with desired target. 
  • Obtainment of reinforcement

Once the parts of the final desired outcome have been identified, each section will need to be taught and practised independently. Once the individual behaviours are fluent, then they can start to be chained together to eventually form the full behaviour repertoire.  Think of a jigsaw puzzle – in order to see the picture clearly, each piece of the puzzle needs to put together correctly.

Simple?! Dog foundation training

Now, this is where learning about and teaching foundation behaviours becomes extremely interesting!   Take a moment to process: in order to achieve reliable fluent desired goal behaviours, we need to break each of the behaviours down (as much possible), into fundamental basic elements.

These fundamentals require behaviours in teaching and learning to be acquired, to productively train.  Contemplate what is required to educate effectively.  Trainers require the mechanics of marking, reinforcement delivery and cueing.  They also (in my opinion) should be educated in the correct observation of their learner and the teaching process, to ensure welfare.  Effective teaching requires preparation, organisation and regular review. Record keeping of dog training sessions enables tracking of progress and accurate evaluation of performance.

Behaviours take time to become learnt habits, so more practise is required to increase reliability (Birch & Bailey, 1999).

Foundation training online

The learner will be required to understand how to learn.  This involves knowledge of how to successfully obtain reinforcement, process information from the environment and respond to cues. Also, I advise that we teach our learner they do have options of choice and control within a training (and everyday life) situation. Both parties ought to develop calm and clear communication, through positively reinforced interactions.

Animal training. Conclusion

All the factors discussed here and so many more, are part of dog Foundation Training.  Behind polished, fluent behaviours are solid, reliable, practised and clearly understood foundations.  To facilitate behaviours to be demonstrated in a confident, effortless manner, all the groundworks need to be established and the foundation behaviours determined.  If this is not happening, then it’s time to observe, evaluate, educate. Work on ensuring your foundations with your learner are solidly in place to provide longevity of a successful training relationship. For more information and detailed feedback from the instructor, check out online course at Tromplo!

Enjoy the journey down the rabbit hole, which opens up when you start to truly explore the intricacies of foundation behaviours!

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