Wednesday, December 30, 2009


As a student, I hated pop-quizzes. You could almost hear a witches cackle emanating from the teacher as they handed them out. “Let’s see you pass this one, my pretties.” Quizzes always seemed designed to trip students up.  Now a parent, I’m finding quizzes are wonderful things. The threat of quizzes keep students in pace with the class and cut down on cramming (so we all get to bed on time.) Quizzes are wonderful at finding holes in your student’s knowledge so they can plug them up before the Big Bad Test comes along and clobbers their grade. Of course, quizzes should only test what the student is suppose to already know.

Quizzes are a good thing.

So what does this have to do with dogs? Absolutely nothing. In fact, in my admittedly brief spell educating dogs (six years) I have yet to hear anyone talking about giving a pop-quiz to a dog. Tests, yes. Tests (aka Trials, Meets, or Shows) are quite common in performance sports.

No quizzes.

Some might argue that a Match is like a quiz, but I don’t think so. There is nothing impromptu about a Match. The preparing to go, the atmosphere when there, and the ring – not to mention all the “warming up” that happens - all big clues to the dog as to what is coming up. A Match is just a trial (or test) where the score doesn’t count and you can re-educate your student during the process. That’s not really the same as a pop-quiz.

Others might think Proofing is like a quiz, but proofing always seems to me like dreaming up things you figure your dog might fail at, tossing them into the situation (witches cackle optional) all the while praying they won’t fail, then picking up the pieces after they do.

Not a quiz.

Wikipedia states: “A quiz is usually a form of a student assessment, but often has fewer questions of lesser difficulty and requires less time for completion than a test. This use is typically found in the USA and Canada."

Seems to me a quiz would be a great tool for objectively evaluating how your dog is progressing and what bits need more work. So why aren’t they used more? It could be that they are, and I’ve just never seen it done. If that is the case, I would love to hear about it!

Assuming I haven’t heard about it because it isn’t done, my guess as to why goes back to that whole Homeschooling thing. A quiz requires some pre-planned thought; both to determine what will be quizzed and then decide how well the student actually did on it. Those are the parts the instructor needs to do. When you Homeschool your dog, guess who that lucky person is?

Yup, you.

Since most people are learning as they are teaching their dog (and who hasn’t stood in front of their dog with a book in one hand and some treats in the other, trying to puzzle out the instructions) figuring out what to quiz when is just one more thing to think about.

But I think quizzes have merit, so this year I’m going to try adding quizzes to my curriculum. I’ll pick out 5 individual things each week that the dogs should already know and can be tested quickly and jot them down on an index card. At some point each day I’ll whip out my card and run through them, one right after the other. The dog can get 2 points per item: perfect = 2 points, tried = 1 point, not a chance = 0.  (For a sample, see here.) Assuming none of my selected items involve lengthy stays (and they shouldn’t) these quizzes will take just a minute or two. Each day I’ll try to run through the items in a different order, but I’ll only ask for the behavior once and I won’t deviate from whatever order I decided to do them in before I started. Only asking once is important. It will make it much more like “test mode” (see Cheating.)

With luck, I’ll see improvement between the first effort and the last last.  No matter what happens, they’ll still get rewarded for their efforts with a jackpot at the end of the quiz.

After all, I don’t want them thinking I’m the wicked witch!


Wendy Krehbiel said...

My dogs get quizzed all the time in real life. For example - there's a horse coming down the trail, can we do a stay with a distraction? We're walking down 1st street and someone dropped their ice cream cone on the ground, can we do a leave it? We pass some, fail many and update our training plans accordingly :)

BZ Dogs said...

True. I guess I see that more like a test (as failure would have consequences.) I view a quiz as a low-consequence thing planned to verify the student is ready to take the test. Of course, if you went strolling down 1st street scouting for tippy ice cream toting toddlers, then it would be more like a quiz. :)

Wendy Krehbiel said...

Ah, I can see them as tests when you put it that way.

WolfDreamerNZ said...

Having just found your blog via the tl group - I am now an avid follower. Your interpretation of homeschooling is fantastic! I am loving watching the results come in and the boys progress. Congrats to both on their recent report cards!