Monday, March 01, 2010

Training vs. Practicing

The topic of practicing comes up in classes from time to time (and again this past weekend) - particularly when the folks in the classes are getting ready to or want to trial. 

Training is all the time - training is teaching, reinforcing and refining. Training is breaking the larger pieces into smaller portions, analyzing handling strategies, running sequences and changing up our handling, working contacts - -you get the idea. Training is flexible - if you set out to work weave poles and suddenly you don't have a send to the tunnel, it's probably a better idea to work your send skills in that session and work your weave entries in the next session.

Practicing is fixed, more rigid. A formal routine - a match. You can school - but you can't fix. Practice is a run-through as though it's the "real" thing: walking and running a whole course or working through an entire obedience routine. Practice is a metric of where a team's skills are in relation to the questions likely to be asked of them in competition.

 It's a balancing act - once behaviors and routines are taught, learned and generalized, practicing is a critical part of trialing and competition, but I also think that in order to maintain criteria we've trained, that criteria needs to be consistently reinforced. The two-on/two-off contact in training becomes a one rear toe in competition. That startline stay starts to morph into a startline wait and then a creep and then a running start. Keep your criteria clean, don't practice behaviors that don't fit into your criteria.

Train, practice, train, practice, train, trial....

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