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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Criteria - What Is It? and CIDT (Criteria in Dog Training)

Welcome to a discussion on Criteria - Blog 2 
(Here is a link to Criteria Blog 1)

Last week I did a blog post introducing the concept of criteria in dog training. Today I’ll talk about some of the specifics of Criteria.

The general definition of Criterion according to Wictionary on-line is - A standard or test by which individual things or people may be compared and judged.

Ah, compare & judge…for me, those are scary words that conjure up bad memories from high school (icky). However, lucky for me and you, we will be our very own criteria makers (yeah!) and the best part is that the criteria we decide upon will be from our own ultimate agility dreams!

If during a discussion about agility I asked you “What ONE thing could your dog do that would make you feel more confident, secure and positive?” What would you answer? Would it be a stay at the start line? A perfect 2-on-2-off contact performance? An instant down on the table?

Until you can identify what it is you want your dog TO DO, you’re going to be stuck dealing with whatever haphazard action they give at that moment. So, before you go out and train, make a firm decision as to what you want the end result, or criteria to be. Now is the time to ask yourself, “What do I want that end action to look like?” I encourage you to dream, dream, dream and to think beyond what you may believe are ‘limits” (within yourself, a dog, the environment, etc.).

Once you've got the vision, write it down!

Now that you’ve got a dream, you need a plan…to move you toward the criteria.

A plan without criteria is the equivalent to winging it. It’s hoping for the best and waiting to see what really happens. It’s like rock climbing for the first time without safety gear. You’ll expend a lot of physical energy and mental worry about the ‘what-if’s when all that was needed was a lesson on how to use the safety gear (or criteria) for peace of mind.

Why have Criteria? Mainly because they are confidence builders that let handlers and dogs say “I recognize this and I know EXACTLY what to do!”

There are criteria, and then there are Criteria in Dog Training (CIDT).  In dog training the definition of criteria is altered slightly to encompass the end result, the end behavior or the final product – from the dog’s point of view.

Specifically, criteria will generally be based on the dog's body position relative to...well, something! Sometimes it's the handler, sometimes an obstacle, sometimes it's a verbal or physical command, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Successful Criteria in dog training is focused so:
  1. The criteria are relevant and relates to the DOG
  2. The criteria are kept simple. After all, a laundry list of wants for one behavior usually isn’t necessary or realistic for handlers to train and maintain.
  3. Ultimately, the dog (and not the handler) will be responsible for independently performing the criteria presented in each agility scenario (and yes, depending on the scenario the handler may give cues to initiate predefined criteria).
To summarize, while I like to joke and say "It's all about me", the truth is in the land of criteria, it's all about the dog and I am the mere translator.

I've created some Criteria Planning Worksheets for my clients to help in the mechanics of deciding on and working toward their predefined criteria. I'll be sharing some of that form in my next blog.

Criteria Blog to be continued....

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