Workshop by Michele Pouliot


New Member
Today Guus and I participated in a great workshop by Michele Pouliot. I wasn't able to join yesterday but even so just today I got very helpful tips and advice from her. I think it's always a good idea to be trained by someone else than my regular trainer. New people have a fresh look at your performance and might see things that your usual trainer misses.

She held a great speach about using treats and toys for luring. She's basically saying you shouldn't because they are so hard to fade out. We all got a hand-out called "cure the lure" which is copy righted so I cannot post it. But the point she makes is that the handler should be the strongest lure to the dog. If you use a lure that lure might become the cue for the dog instead of the reward.

One of the best tips she gave was to wait to get the treat/toy until you have marked the desired behaviour. Most people tend to reach for the treat/toy while they are clicking.

If any of you ever have the chance to participate in one of her workshops I definately recommend it.

This is a post she made on an online workshop so I guess it's okay to post it here:

Training for desired performance

Note to readers: I want to be clear that my postings are simply my opinions, views and experiences. I expect individuals may disagree due to their own beliefs and experiences but request that differences of opinion remain polite and respectful to everyone.

One of my priority goals in canine freestyle is to truly entertain my audience. My entertainment goals are specific for each individual routine, whether it's to make people laugh, feel emotionally inspired, or even cry.
Whether an individual freestyler's goal is to present entertaining demonstrations, qualify to gain titles in competition, or to strive for the highest scores they can achieve in competition; each have similar challenges in regards to quality of performance. Although one has the option of rewarding their dog during demonstrations, it does diminish the effectiveness of a freestyle performance to the audience. Due to my perception that obvious reward during a freestyle routine detracts from its entertainment value, I instruct all my students in the same manner regardless of their goals. I'm referring to training towards the goal of performing freestyle routines in their entirety without noticeable rewards (to the audience).
Although 2 to 4 minutes doesn't sound like a long time for a dog to work, it usually equates to anywhere from 20 to 80 responses to cued behaviors without breaks in between. Building up a dog's ability to respond immediately to that many cues in a row takes longer than a few months of prepping a new routine. I believe it requires either a very special dog that naturally loves to work in front of an audience (if you have one of these dogs, consider it your once in a lifetime dog) or a training program that establishes a foundation of how to perform and maintains that `performance ability' throughout the dogs training career. Sounds so easy, right?
Okay, it is not that easy.
Each individual dog has its own challenges (unless you have that 'once in a lifetime' canine) and requires the handler to find a strategy that works for that dog. It would be impossible for me to specifically direct someone in how to create a "performance attitude" in their dog without knowing the dog and their handling techniques. What I can do is share with you what I strive for in every training interaction I ever have with each of my dogs. I believe that dogs develop working habits during day to day training sessions and I must create the kind of habit I want during performances. Example: If I train day to day holding food in my hand, I create a habit in the dog of working when I hold food. As performance time grows near, that is a strong habit that will work against me in the performance arena. I can only expect the dog to be confused and/or thrown off by my "altered handling". One might argue that you simply need to stop holding food weeks prior to performance, but my belief is that once a strong "working habit" is established it will show itself in the performance arena.
I will start this subject off by sharing my everyday training program goals with you. These are intended to help develop habits in my dogs that support performing without food or toys. Whether I am training a brand new behavior or working on a fluent behavior, I have these goals in mind during every training session with my dogs:
1. My food or toy rewards are not visible to the dog until I actually reward. Although I may have a bait pouch on when first teaching new behaviors, I strive to keep it out of the dogs view and immediately stop wearing the pouch when I get a good start on the behavior.
2. I avoid holding rewards in my hands to cue behaviors (unless I am initiating a new behavior via a lure – then I try to omit using that lure after 3 repetitions).
3. As I am teaching a new behavior, I am deciding upon and beginning to use the body presence (stance, lack of training gestures) I desire to use during the finished performance behavior.
4. I use a variety of reward during each training session (food, toys, verbal and physical affection). I continually strive to create and maintain my dogs enjoyment of my verbal and physical affection, as that is something I do take into the performance ring with me. In addition, it creates a closer working bond with my dogs than if I am only a vending machine during training sessions.
5. I chain 3 to 6 behaviors together during each training session and provide a jackpot reward after the last behavior.
6. I strive to end a training session while each dog is still enthusiastic. For Cabo (English Springer Spaniel) that is commonly under 10 minutes of training while Listo (Australian Shepherd) remains ready to work for 30 minute sessions.
7. I focus hard on keeping my Clicker Techniques clean to get the most power out of this awesome tool (meaning the audible marker is not hindered by sight of rewards or movements towards rewards).
8. I remain observant of my dogs and their perceptions of my training. I find my dogs provide me with tons of information about my handling, their opinion of certain behaviors, and their enthusiasm for playing freestyle. Through being observant, I can identify what behaviors are quite self rewarding to my dogs, which ones they find less fun and which established behaviors are needing retraining. My dogs' reactions just prior to reward clearly tell me if my handling of rewards is clean or becoming "dirty" (focus on rewards prior to performing behavior).
These aspects of my everyday training program assist in creating the habit in my dogs of enthusiastically performing without the visual presence of those rewards becoming their cue to perform.
Smooth Moves, Michele