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Learning Human

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In the dog world, we call the language of Human “cues”

Cues.  Cues are so hard for Brito. He is struggling to become fluent in Human and I’m struggling to teach him.

But not always, which is even more frustrating.  If he’s relaxed and simply responding out of muscle memory, then he’s pretty fluent. But add several cues in a row where he has to choose the right option, or add a little environmental stress, or change the context just a bit and….he falls apart.  He looks right at me and nothing happens.  He does not understand Human on that day, or at least at that moment.

Why are cues so hard for him? HE SHOULD KNOW THIS.  But he doesn’t.  How is that possible?  The same words and signals that he has seen literally thousands of times.  How can he not be fluent?

I’m learning Spanish – I have a computer program that guides me along.

Like Brito, I was doing so well.  I was practicing every day  and amassing a sizable vocabulary.  I spent plenty of time reviewing lessons and holding myself to a high standard.  I want to become fluent.

And then, for three days straight, I started failing all of my reviews.  For no particular reason, except that once my brain froze up, my accuracy went from about 80% to 30%. Same words; same lessons.

The harder I tried the worse I performed.  I started dreading the “buzz” sound, and even the happy “bings” started to feel more like a respite from being wrong than something to feel good about.

I’m back to reviewing the earliest lessons and I don’t know if it will work.  I have never had an affinity for foreign language.  I’d imagine that those who learn foreign languages easily must think I’m just not trying very hard.

The fact is, all of this failure is depressing, which not only takes the joy out of learning, it makes my brain feel foggy.  And the more I fail, the worse I feel about it.  I don’t even want to try anymore.

My sympathy for the efforts of little Brito have gone through the roof.

He is struggling to learn Human and I am struggling to learn Spanish.  I get it. I really do.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

14 responses »

  1. Rayetta Philen

    love this!

  2. la fray gadoury

    Oh, sounds so familiar. I found that in my training horses and dogs that this happens almost every time and I often just take a break. Literally. I find that it’s a natural learning curve senario. We’ll stop and I’ll just play with them (or let them chill) and do what’s fun for both of us for a while, and pick-up it up again from the beginning of our training at square one. This builds their confidence and we breeze right through sessions at the point that we stopped and continue on and beyond.

    Denise Fenzi wrote: > a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; } /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ dfenzi posted: “In the dog world, we call the language of Human “cues” Cues.  Cues are so hard for Brito. He is struggling to become fluent in Human and I’m struggling to teach him. But not always, which is even more frustrating.  If he’s relaxed and simply responding “

  3. Denise, Wow. I am going through the same thing. I am taking an online course with FEMA, so I can be certified to be part of an Emergency Response Team with emphasis on animal rescue. Part one I passed fine. Part two, after reading all the material, my mind went blank at test time. It was a lot of info on organizational stuff. Now I am a wreck about retaking the test. That was about a week ago. Sigh. Really want to get it done. Brain is not cooperating.

  4. Hi

    I’m wondering if Brito took a complete break for a while to give his brain a rest would help him. My Beardie has had several complete breaks in his two years because of my health problems (dizziness and balance problems). He, so far, has remembered what he learned previously. However, there is one thing my boy continues to goof up. It’s “sit.” One of the most easy skills. It’s my challenge skill from Donna Hill’s Bonding while Walking class.

    Kay Haaland

  5. Yep, I agree some of us, dog and human have a hard time retaining information. I say let him grow up, take a break, play, have fun!!!… no more new information in stressful environments. My First IG ( neutered male) finally began to get it at 5 years of age, frustration only begins to describe how I felt. I actually thought he was not a very intelligent dog….little did I know he was the most intelligent dog I have trained. I started over,played with him made him successful, he flourished.

  6. Try a harder language like MANDARIN. It works for me. I am also slowly learning the language or Rally. It seems like every trade has a language. You know more languages then you think.

  7. Wow! That is a great analogy. I too, have struggled to learn another language and have had a difficult time. Some of the earliest lessons are the only ones I remember. It is defeating.
    What can we do for our dogs? It seems to me that people who seem to “master” a second language do so out of necessity and not because they just “want to learn” something different. Maybe our dogs need to a reason to follow a command other than pleasing the handler or getting a reward. But, I don’t know what that would be…???

    • We animals (canine, human, et al.) will all work for an intrinsic reward. I love drumming and want to be better. Therefore I don’t need any external reward. I have and dogs who love agility so much that just the chance to go out and run and jump is all they need.
      They problem arises when we want out dogs to do something which they find aversive (even if only mildly) or when it is vey low on their list of priorities.
      My Agility loving dogs only needed a chance to take a jump/the tunnel/scramble as a reinforcing rewards for heeling. (mildly aversive to them) I persisted with teaching them heeling because IF they wanted to do Agility, they actually needed to behave nicely off course.
      But basically I don’t persist any more trying to teach dogs things they find aversive just for my own pleasure.

  8. Love this share, very true. Thanks for the post.

  9. Learning a completely new skill can really help us understand our dogs better — and hopefully be a better teacher.
    We learn so natural when we are young (equivalent to a puppy) but I adulthood we seem to need to work harder and longer. I am learning the snare drum (just for pleasure) and I find that somedays I need to go right back to where I was a year or so ago. Unused muscles get tired, and the old brain keeps trying to lodge itself back into comfortable ruts 😦

  10. I understand what you described, but my experience learning other languages is different. I started my life as a tri-lingual, and as an adult, I learned a couple of others. My success acquiring a new language was determined by need.

    I learned quickest what I needed most: ordering dinner from a restaurant menu, cheese from cheese shops, edible jewels from pastry shops, travel directions, I need stitches on my forearm, etc. What I didn’t need to say as urgently took longer.

    Learning to write was easier when I already knew what to say. Learning to write a language that doesn’t use the Western European Roman alphabet just adds another minor wrinkle when you already know the sounds and know what to say.

    Under complete immersion, without resort to what I already know, I have learned best. I wonder how a dog might perform in such circumstances.

    • janet amighi

      I sometimes train cues derived from other languages. Its fun and in freestyle where we can use verbal cues, I can cue without the judge knowing what I am saying. The dogs don’t care, english, persian, spanish, doesn’t seem to faze them. But then often when I think they know a verbal cue very well, I discover that really they are just following my gaze. Oh no, you don’t even know the word “heel”?-After 4 years.

  11. What a wonderful analogy. And that you thought to take your struggle and use it to understand better what Brito may be experiencing. It’s illuminating when we become the student struggling to learn, or better understand something… it’s made me a more thoughtful, compassionate, and patient teacher of my dogs.


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