Garbage in: Garbage out... | HotDogs K9 Training

Garbage in: Garbage out…

image of stylised angry face
Sarah Ripley
Posted in Opinion pieces


I let rip with a fluent stream of Anglo-Saxon expletives just as my long-suffering husband walked through the door.

“Problem?” he enquired, casting a wary eye on me (steaming!) and the dogs feigning sleep in their beds.

“This $&*%ing thing won’t let me have numbered AND bulleted lists!!! How hard can it $&*%ing be?? Four $&*%ing hours I’ve been going ‘round in circles and it just keeps changing everything back!”

Five minutes later a cuppa, with side biscuit and an answer from Dr Google arrived on my desk.


Operator error

Ah. Oops. The software wasn’t the problem. I’d been giving it duff input; it was doing the best it could with the information I was giving it. I quietly apologised for the tirade of abuse that it’d endured, corrected my input and…I was all nicely finished.


And this links to dog training how??

You may be wondering why I’m telling you this. Well, I see a few parallels with my (mis)usage of a sophisticated software program, and how many dog-guardians view training their dogs.

Firstly, it is commonly believed that using a word processing program is easy and any fool can do it. And, to a point, that’s true.

However, to do it to any level of real-world proficiency and efficiency – to have it work as you’d like most of the time and do ‘fancy’ stuff, it helps if you have a wee bit more knowledge than where the ‘delete’ and ‘save’ buttons are. The better you understand the program the better you’re able to give it meaningful information. Then it can respond and give you the output you desire.

Your dog is a bit the same. Any fool can train a dog to sit for its dinner or give a paw for a cookie. However, if you want real-life, results; maybe ‘come when called no matter what’, ‘stay put with fun stuff happening’, or ‘walk on a lead without keeping a physio in long term business’, you’d better understand the installed software.

Just as my WP software has ‘programming rules’, your dog also obeys rules. These rules are governed by the laws of learning and your dog can no more disobey them than my software could disregard its programming.

When it goes wrong; the results aren’t happening, what do we do? We get frustrated!! I cussed my computer out something wicked; I’ve seen people do the same thing to their dogs. However, neither response makes a lot of sense.


Garbage in; garbage out…

My computer can only obey its programming and your dog can only obey his learning. If I don’t know how to operate my computer, I can’t blame the software. If your dog doesn’t understand what you’re trying to teach, it’s unfair to blame your dog – he’s a product of his experience, as directed by the rules of learning. And you’re a very big part of that learning.

Happy training!

– Sarah and the Gang

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