It’s a new year! It’s a new month! It’s Train Your Dog Month!
Every January, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers hosts Train Your Dog Month since, as long as people are making resolutions, they might as well resolve to spend a month thinking about the “importance and benefits of training dogs to become happy and healthy companions” by using “positive, science-based training” to make their canid friends easier to live with. Besides, as they say, “We want the public to know that training your dog is not only beneficial, it’s FUN!” (Typographical emphasis theirs, believe it or not!)
The APDT offers tips and resources for tips on sit, down, loose leash walking, and other basic manners behaviors. And, of course, a quick internet search will yield dozens, if not hundreds, of other tips on how to train your dog–and, yes, how to make it fun (I can’t bring myself to use as much typographical emphasis as the APDT did unironically, though).
I’m not trying to knock tips–tips are great. But, seriously, when I first got Nala and tried to structure training sessions, I felt like the tips were waging a war against the instructions for teaching behaviors inside my skull. Keep sessions short! Use high value food for difficult behaviors! No, wait, reward your dog with tugging! 1 minute sessions! 2 minute sessions! Only a few reps per behavior! 15 minute sessions! One hour of training a day?! Take breaks! Use jackpots!
And then there are the things for which there are no tips, or many contradicting ones–how many behaviors should you work on in a session? What if your dog looks like you betrayed her when you click and offer her a tug toy?
Besides, what about the trainer? How do you keep yourself from being bored to tears by endless sits, downs, and tree-being when your dog pulls? How do you sort through the noise and make training fun for both of you? How do you turn all of those tip and instructions into a training session?
To be perfectly honest, these kinds of questions still kind of bother me on a weekly basis.
That’s why, when I read Denise Fenzi’s suggestion, last week, to post unedited training session videos to show what your training looks like instead of yelling at people on the internet, I got excited even though I’m not a real dog trainer. This is exactly the sort of thing that appeals to me–I don’t want to argue about training methods. I just want to do my thing and talk about the fascinating bits. And if I can save someone else a little bit of time, worry, or research, even better. Showing people some of the ways that our training sessions can look seems like a wonderful way to do that–and one that will motivate me to video more of our training sessions. Win-win!
So, here’s what I want to do during Train Your Dog Month, since I train my dog every month.
I want to post one or two full, unedited training sessions every week this month. Not because I think our training is exemplary–I know that it isn’t. But I do want to add to the sum total of what happy reward based training sessions can look like.
To start, I want to share our training session last night. It’s pretty straightforward, in that we’re just reviewing and progressing several behaviors. I had just come home from work, and I didn’t have much of a plan, other than to focus on skill building rather than on something more abstract, and to not work on a few things we had done the day before.
It’s a long video, so here are some markers and commentary so you can skip to parts that interest you:
:10 Warm up with targeting and food play
:34 Down-to-stand; “bravo!”
:57 Play break
1:15 Heel position picture
1:50 “Hug a toy pt 1. (Trick in progress)
2:38 Retrieve work (Trick in progress). I jackpot the last one because I really like it!
Play break! and the Wow game at 3:40, and easy trick review
4:35 Shaping session (right paw lift)
5:30 Targeting and play
6:12 Hug part 2. This goes better because I’m trying to reward her in a way that keeps her weight straight up and back so she won’t be tempted to climb me! Then I click wrapping around the toy. Reviewing the video, I realized that I need to present the toy lower.
7:12 break to find a prop
8:03 Good choice, Nala! The fact that she fell prey to this distraction tells me that I’m asking too much here, and so I make it easier when she chooses to come back. clockwise pivoting is still physically difficult for her, and she needs more breaks. It’s easy for me to forget that now that she is so proficient at going clockwise.
9:00 Reshaping “Fly” with a new object
11:15 She finally remembers this behavior and offers it!
11:28 I jumped the gun using a cue here…
11:34 But it’s okay, since she responds perfectly to it here.
11:50 More heelwork. Note to self–remember to take off with the right foot so that she doesn’t worry that I might step on her.
So, dear readers, I want to ask you–what kinds of warty training sessions would you like to see? Introducing a whole new trick (and feel free to request a specific trick)? Shaping? Learning to work in our distracting backyard? Playing and reducing reinforcers? Fixing a problem I created? I’ll show you, if I can!
And, of course, I’m always curious to know what other people’s training looks like, so–wanna show me yours?
This is part of the positive pet training blog hop!
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