EXCEL-erated Learning,

by Pamela Reid, PhD

Book review by Pam Green, © 2000

This is a review of an excellent book on the principles of how dogs learn . with many examples of application of these principles to training dogs in Obedience, Agility, and other sports and practical situations. Highly recommended for all dog persons.

EXCEL-erated Learning,
Explaining How Dogs Learn and How Best to Teach Them
by Pamela Reid, PhD

This is another book that I didn't want to read because of the title. "EXCEL-erated Learning" ? "EXCEL" as in Microsoft ?? Dog training the Microsoft way ??? The idea did not have a lot of appeal. However the behaviorists at the UCD Behavior Symposium had this on their list of good stuff to read, so when I saw a copy at the Cultured Canine, I opened it for a look. found to my surprise it's actually a very good book.

Now this book should have been titled " Don't Shoot the Dog : The Next Generation". That's what the book really is. (Now if you are not familiar with the great classic "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor, well I'd like to know what planet you've been living on for the past ten or more years.)

Basically this book reviews all the principles of learning/conditioning and applies them to concrete problems in dog training and behavior problem solving. The author's chief interest and thus many of her examples are from the fields of Obedience and Agility, but there are examples from other fields including herding. What is a bit unusual among current books applying behaviorist methodology to dog training is that the author does not ignore or reject aversive methods as valid for some situations, while at the same time giving the needed warnings abut serious bad results of misuse of such methods (The section on use of remote training collars is the first I've seen outside of literature from Tritronics that is realistic about valid use of strong aversive stimuli. However the author does not seem familiar with use of very mild aversive stimuli via remote collar, and for that you must go to the Tritronics "Three Action Introduction" p[ pamphlet and video, which are excellent.)

Lotsa good stuff and much provocation for further thought in this book. I recommend it to serious trainers.

Now I would leave as an exercise for the mind of the readers to contemplate what "Dog Training the Microsoft Way" would consist of ?

My own response is that, as the typical Microsoft product is huge, slow to load and cumbersome to run, has way too many features that no normal user will ever ever use, and takes way too much RAM to run, therefore dog training the Microsoft way would be more or less as follows : you have to bring to each and every training session full equipment for Obedience, Agility, Herding (including a flock of 80 uncastrated male sheep, ie 80 rams), and Tracking and you must set all this up and be ready to use it even though you actually intend (and only have time for) just a very short training session in one single aspect of one of these endeavors (eg you just wanted to work on Drop on Recall today -- and only have 5 or 10 minutes to work in). Oh yeah, also the Microsoft Trainer has bought up or driven out of business all possible alternative trainers in the area so you have to train the Microsoft Way or else no way at all.

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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 1/8/03 revised 4/21/03
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