Rest periods from intense or specialist training

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Bidsaus
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Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by Bidsaus » Tue Jan 13, 2015 3:24 am

Hi
I was hoping to get peoples thoughts on Rest periods or as I term them "holidays" from intensive training or specialist training. It has been my experience that dogs can be over trained & can lose some enthusiasm for some tasks if practiced or trained repeatedly. I am not meaning basic training or manners etc & I believe nearly every contact we have with our dogs is a training opportunity but some training can be mentally & physically draining just like it is for ourselves I believe. My personal experience is that they don't ever forget the task or training & come at it with new enthusiasm after a few weeks off. However after posting for advice on a animal behaviour board I was told holidays or breaks are a anthropomorphic idea & that dogs like their work & giving them a break from it may be more stressful for them. So does anyone have any thoughts on this matter?

JudyN
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Re: Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by JudyN » Tue Jan 13, 2015 5:07 am

Ooh, interesting question :D I don't know the answer, but to help the experts, do you have a specific breed/type and a specific sort of training in mind?
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Nettle
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Re: Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by Nettle » Tue Jan 13, 2015 8:51 am

"Latent Learning" is what takes place after a new training experience, when the sequence or partial sequence passes from the forebrain to the hindbrain (some feel that there is a "midbrain" interval as well).

That is why training ideally is not intensive at all. The new skill is introduced, or partially introduced if we are building up a sequence. Then downtime is needed for it to progress into the memory. If trainers attempt "intensive" training then the brain does not have he very necessary time to do this. On a different day, the new skill is proofed but it is very important not to do too much, not to stress or cause anxiety or even boredom in the dog.

Once proofed, the skill is there for life. After a few years of not using a particular skill, the dog may be a little ring-rusty, but my own experience is that the response to cue is there right away.
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Bidsaus
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Re: Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by Bidsaus » Tue Jan 13, 2015 7:26 pm

I understand latent learning & rotating training intervals but I was thinking more longer periods ie weeks & months. To clarify I will add more information :0)

My dogs & I train for Urban Search & Rescue over here in Australia. One of my dogs is the highest qualified dog in Queensland & qualified at a international level. My other dog is only young & still training. I am about to give my qualified a training break from search work for 6 weeks. I understand that ideally training isn't intensive but when working with QLD Fire & emergency & doing training/exercises for deployment the days can be really full on for both K9 & handler. I have attached some pictures etc of what we do to give you an idea of what I mean. In my opinion you never work an animal all the time without breaks but everyone else is different. I also carry concerns over PTSD that can be seen in dogs during & after deployment & we actively take steps to prevent this with motivational runs & games, day trips off base of operations to beach etc to unwind the dog. As you can imagine this is not normal training they are looking for trapped, scared people on deployment. However in training they love their job & it is nowhere near as stressful but I still believe they needs breaks away from it. I only use positive reinforcement methods etc.
Someone also asked about breed, both my dogs are rescue dogs but we DNA tested & one is a Rotti X Fox terrier, the other is a black GSD of some sort, not DNA tested yet from RSPCA.[

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Nettle
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Re: Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by Nettle » Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:03 am

I suspect we have a semantics problem here. :wink: Do you mean training or working?

I keep working dogs, and a break (usually in the case of mine through injury) does not lose them any edge at all. They are mad keen to get back to work.

But I never work mine to the point of exhaustion. This IMO is critical. And this, quite possibly, is where your query lodges. Dogs repeatedly worked to their utmost limits will indeed suffer mental trauma and be more likely to quit than dogs adequately rested and refreshed.
Last edited by Nettle on Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Swanny1790
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Re: Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by Swanny1790 » Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:28 am

My job at a remote site well beyond the edge of no-where has my sled dogs working hard for two weeks, and then "off" for two. Like most things in life, it has both desirable and undesirable consequences. On the undesirable side, I am not able to consistently maintain the dogs in the peak of physical condition. It's like taking two steps forward during my R&R from work, only to take one step back while I'm away earning kibble instead of running.

On the desirable side of the coin, I have never had a problem with dogs going "sour" in the middle of the season. My dogs always seem enthused and happy to be running, even if we are just running the same trails day in and day out. Since the most common solutions to sour dogs involve giving them a few days off or running them on different trails it would seem the cause of the issue is likely boredom with a tedious routine.

During mid-summer up here it is too hot to train on the trails at all. The dogs just can't manage the heat. It's not uncommon for my team to take a full three-months "off". The first few runs of a new season are always made difficult just because the dogs are SO enthusiastic and happy to be working again that they can't contain themselves, resulting in tangles and a certain 'lack of control' until they can settle their little brains a bit. I see the same thing on a slightly smaller scale after a two-week break during the training season.

Six weeks off isn't going to 'ruin' your dog by any stretch, but you may need to do some remedial work the first few days when you resume your training routine.

You wrote "I understand that ideally training isn't intensive ..." I disagree. We mushers have a saying "Train them like you run them, and then run them like you train them." You really can't expect a dog to work intensively if s/he hasn't been trained intensively. It's like asking a human who runs 5 miles two evenings each week to run a marathon every day for half a month.
"Once infected with the mushing virus, there is no cure. There is only trail." - Sven Engholm

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Nettle
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Re: Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by Nettle » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:21 am

Again I think we have slightly different takes on meaning - Swanny, when you say 'train' do you mean train like an athlete works to establish and maintain fitness? I was taking it to mean 'teach dog to do something' and I suspect that is why I did not readily grasp what Bidsaus meant.
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Swanny1790
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Re: Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by Swanny1790 » Wed Jan 14, 2015 9:33 pm

Actually, in the context of sled dogs training can mean both conditioning and training. For example, dogs need to learn how to rest comfortably in camp, run through overflow without hesitation, and so forth. They also need physical conditioning.

Those long runs that some mushers can coax out of their teams in 1,000 mile (plus a few) races can take a significant mental toll on dogs that aren't prepared for doing them. Preparation requires the occasional long (80 to 100 mile) run during the training season. Not a lot of them, but enough of them for the dogs to learn they really can do them, and they really will get an extra long rest break at the end of them.

Some racers are truly brilliant about it. Lance Mackey comes to mind - when he leaves his yard on a training run the dogs have no idea whether they are going to do 10 miles or 100, mostly because Lance doesn't know until he gets out on the trail and can see how the dogs are working on that particular day and trail.
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Re: Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by Steve29 » Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:18 am

I do not know if the dogs appreciate a break or not, but I don't think it hurts them to be off for awhile. I know working farm dogs may work hard for several days and then not do much for a month.

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Nettle
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Re: Rest periods from intense or specialist training

Post by Nettle » Sat Jan 17, 2015 4:55 am

Even packs of hounds only hunt on average 3 days a week and not every hound goes out every time. It's easy to sour an animal mentally not to mention overwhelm it physically with too much work. I never knew a dog soured by too little work though.

In the days when I bred my dogs, a b itch would be off work for six months with a litter, then another two months being got fit before she came back into full work. They always came back really keen. By contrast, I know people who work their dogs every day, and many of those dogs eventually quit when they could have had years of working life left.
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