Monday, November 23, 2015
Dog training tip o' the day: Good advice on good training takes a while to take effect. Don't dismiss a method or methodology after failure to prompt change in the short term.
It takes time for behaviour to change, especially when first the behaviour of the handler needs to change to create change in the dog. I know from personal experience that it's easy to grow discouraged and possibly suspect that the advice received is incorrect for your personal set of circumstances. However, before deciding to move on from a strategy, make sure to give it a fair try first.
I remember years ago when still very much a novice trainer and Cohen still a young dog that I was having trouble with reduction in the quality of attention and leash behaviour immediately after rewarding Cohen for good behaviour. I turned to some acquaintances to help troubleshoot the issue and one of the pieces of advice offered was to offer a series of rewards in quick succession at random intervals to encourage sustained attention. I tried it for a week or two, didn't see much improvement and shelved working on it for a while after growing discouraged and demotivated. Now, well, I have great sustained attention, and I owe it largely to that advice. It just took a while for the picture to become clear. If anyone would ask me for advice on the issue the words I would offer would mirror those that I received years ago with the added caveat of "don't give up!".
The memory of demotivation and "well maybe it's just not going to work for us" is still clear in my mind. For those of you who ever feel similarly, time and consistency are often the two missing ingredients to creating change. Keep at it, and try not to be discouraged.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Dog training tip o' the day: Train smarter, not harder.
The best dog trainers in the world are able to get phenominal performances out of their dogs. Their dedication to their craft is commendable and awe-inspiring. Perhaps surprisingly, they do not spend all day training their dogs.
Great trainers' training sessions are often no longer than five minutes.
Great trainers normally enter their training sessions a plan as to how they will work to improve a selection of behaviours.
Great trainers do not drill behaviours repeatedly, ad nauseam.
Great trainers keep written and/or visual records of their work to track progress and help better prepare subsequent training sessions.
Great trainers ensure that their dogs have a solid understanding of foundation behaviours before moving on to something advanced.
Great trainers do not reward substandard behaviours because if they do, behaviours will remain substandard.
Great trainers know when to end a session and to ignore the allure of "just one more...".
Great training is as much art as it is science, and very few people are able to reach the upper echelons in a given sport. We may never get there. However, we can learn from those who have. We can take these lessons and apply them to our own training and move just a little closer to becoming great ourselves.