Success is contagious and habit forming. Failure is contagious and habit forming. Which one do you do more of in your throwing practice?
Most of the time when people get together to throw discs at camp they set up 20 yards away from each other. The game quickly becomes a game of fetch instead of catch and then people are bored, and leaning up against fence and stuff. Not only is the game lame, but people are left with the idea that throwing discs is difficult.
As soon as we bring them in to 7-10 yards or so (closer if they need), the game changes. There’s laughing and giggling, throws get crisper and more confident, shy people start to get crazy and creative with their releases. Throughout the weekend, we slowly back up, winding up 12 yards apart or so – a really fantastic and useful distance for a creative release – and the throws get crisper, they start to float… If we get you for a full weekend, you are forever changed as a thrower…
This is the end result of reducing criteria and manufacturing success.
This needs to be done in throwing practice. Set clear and attainable criteria and hit that criteria over and over. When you set up to play catch with your training buddy or better half, stay 7-10 yards apart. Throw nice soft, pretty floaters. Learn to float discs at this distance. If success is a given, you will be able to throw much further and more reliably, and develop the skills you need to make your dog look good on the field.
Line up 20 yards away and chuck plastic and make your better half or training partner fetch discs for you and practice will seem like work, your training partner will probably lose interest, and you will wind up with erratic throws that do a disservice to you and your dog and will negatively affect scores from judges.
Doing Well? Then Step Back
If you are successfully hitting a target at 7-10 yards, step back. Hitting it perfect at 7-10 yards? Step back. It doesn’t take long at all to go from 7-20 yards.
In the video with Judy we increased criteria too fast. Each successful repetition prompted a step. Don’t do this! Get 5-10 successful repetitions in a row before bumping up your criteria by stepping back. This is especially important if the skill is hard or if the criteria is getting really challenging to hit.
Not Doing So Hot? Back Up or Shifting Gears
When struggling with a criteria or you just lose your mojo, reduce the criteria – go back a few steps in the progression of the throw, a few yards closer – or even go back to the very beginning of the learning process or back to 7-10 yards. That’s where I tend to go when I get frustrated. You can’t be failing if you are too busy being successful. Another tactic might be to move on to something completely different.
A good trainer is not afraid to go back a step. A great trainer is not afraid to go back to the beginning.
In the video, I busted Judy’s mojo talking about missing while she was hitting on all cylinders. It didn’t take long for that negativity to steal her mojo that was building throughout the session. It was a terrible training blunder on my part. Why bring up misses when she’s so clearly hitting perfectly? That target was 1” wide. She was 4-5 yards away before she lost the handle on it, and it was pretty much my fault for drawing attention to the concept of error.
When that happened we backed up to the very beginning and you could see how apprehensive Judy was even about this very small and easy to hit criteria. We got a bit of success, at minimal criteria and then shifted gears to something else.
Do not repeat failure. It is habit forming. Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Perfect Practice – being successful – is the goal.
Marking behaviors is not just for dogs. My drawing attention to the possibility of missing made Judy nervous, affecting her performance. If attention is drawn to success using a positive marker, you and your partner will feel more capable and confident. It will affect performance in a positive manner.
With the Seven Spot drill, when we start that with groups of handlers, we do a few rounds before adding the positive marker. Those rounds are full of inconsistency and doubt – quiet with nervous laughter. Within seconds of the group thoughtfully applying the marker, an amazing transformation takes place, and a chorus of,”Yes!” starts to get louder and quiet, nervous laughter becomes giggling happy people. It’s crazy!
Only pay attention to the positives, mark them to remember them, and set your criteria so you are challenged but overwhelmingly successful.