Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I hear voices.....

One of the things I like about dog training is that even though it is not exactly rocket science, there is an art to it. You are constantly learning and tweaking what you do and trying to figure out better ways to do something. All dogs are different, for most tasks I have a certain process for training them but it can’t be so set in stone so as to not be flexible based on the specific dog I am training.
One of the things that can be maddening about dog training is all of the above…  Even after a great many years of dog training, at relatively high levels in a number of venues, there are still lightbulb moments. Moments when some brilliant observation pops into my head while training. Immediately following that is the other voice in my head (what? You only have one??) that says “Well duh! Took you long enough to figure that out!”

Working with Jill has provided some perfect examples of this. Jill initially started out her career with me in training to be my next SAR dog. However since I took my new job and am not doing SAR, she needed some other outlets for her drive and energy. One of those is competition obedience; she has been to a total of 7 trials now, qualifying in all and placing in all but one. Most importantly she LOVES to do it and seems to enjoy trialing.  She has been interesting to train because she is my first personal dog who came to me as an adult. While she had very little training and no formal obedience, she does have a VERY high desire to work and to please. The combination of her being an adult and so eager to please makes it easy to assume mastery immediately after she learns something and performs it well. She skips steps on her own and you can chain behaviors together faster that with a younger dog. Every once in a while however I notice a spot where I need to go back and reinforce a single aspect of the exercise a little more heavily  - such as the automatic sit while heeling. For a while I noticed Jill was treating it as an afterthought. She did it but it was not sharp and did not match the crispness and enthusiasm of her heeling. Then I realized I was treating it as an after thought too. Then the voice in my head called me names and made fun of my training. Well no…not really on that last part. But close….A few sessions of heavy reinforcement for the sit then gradually decreasing the rate and now the automatic sit presents the same animated picture as her heeling in motion.

I hate it when the voice in my head is right……

1 comment:

  1. Lucy the last person to admit to hearing voices (Joan of Arc) was burned as a Witch LOL.