A blog about dog training and dog breeding…and other sundry matters

The past few weeks have been hectic around here with my students getting ready to take their Royal Schools of Music exams, and obedience trials just around the corner.  The days go by so quickly, and before I know it, a whole week has passed and I have trained my dog but once.

I love operant conditioning (a method of dog training using positive techniques and negative punishment) because I find that my dogs retain what I teach them for long periods, even when I don’t get a chance to revisit the behaviors.  Athena, who won the Novice trial last November with High in Trial, will be entering Beginners in a few weeks.  My various jobs prevent me from focusing on her training they way I’d like to.

It’s been many weeks since I’ve worked her out of the yard and proofed any of her exercises.  She performs beautifully in the yard, but the challenge will come in the form of the myriad distractions on the day of the show.  I do what I can.

I came to the realization some time ago, that if I waited until I managed to train consistently (like everyday for a month) before entering a trial, I’d never enter another obedience trial until I was retired.  By then my dogs would all be dead, and I’d have to start all over again.  I made a resolution to enter at least two trials every year.  It is my ambition to put obedience titles on at least two of my seven dogs.

So, here I am, trying to balance the work that I do with my human students, which I love, with the work that I do with my dog students, which I also love.  I’m tough on my human students because I not only teach them how to play the piano, but provide them with life skills that will serve them well. 

I’m gradually learning to lighten up with myself where my dog training is concerned.  I do this for the sheer joy of training an animal.  I learn so many other skills in the process, and learn about myself, too.  Trials are an opportunity for me to enter the obedience ring with my best friend, my canine partner, to show the world what we’ve got, and most of all to have fun.  At the end of the trial, regardless of the outcome, I still get to take the dog home.


Comments on: "Training and Teaching: A balancing Act" (6)

  1. The lazy dog trainer’s way (I am a VERY lazy trainer!) is to count out 10 treats (5 if you’re really pressed for time) and do 10 reps of a target behavior. It takes less than a minute and can easily be squeezed into the morning routine. Believe me, I am SO not a morning person, but getting 10 fronts or 10 treats on the egg or 10 nose touches is a piece of cake even for me. If you do this once in the morning, once in the evening, you’ll get in a LOT of reinforcements for the most important behaviors in your routine.


  2. Thanks, Liza, I’m gonna try this. My biggest fear now for training in the morning, is not having patience with the dog because I’m so pushed for time. I want the dog to focus NOW, I want that sit NOW. I think the dogs pick up on the stress and don’t perform.

    Your suggestion is a great way to stay focused on teaching one thing, too.

  3. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature! If you’re going to be a little tense in the morning, pushed, rushing, that’s GREAT! Because when you go in the ring, and you’re a little tense, a little pushed, feeling a bit rushed in an actual trial, your dog will know how to cope! Use it! Isn’t that one of the biggest problems of trialing, we walk into the ring with our dogs and turn into something completely stiff, different, nervous, and the dogs freak?

  4. Good point, except I don’t feel stressed about time once I’m in the ring. I’m stressed about other things. This could be a good opportunity to train the dog to get focused quickly. That could be an exercise in and of itself!

    • And it’s good for your dog to learn that sometimes you’re different, tenser, quicker, whatever, and that the same behavior is expected of her (or him). Then, no matter how you change when you go in the ring, it won’t be a total surprise to your dog. S/He can just say, Oh mom’s being weird again, but I know how to act!

      • Yes, that’s so true. Athena’s accustomed to seeing me goofy and playful, even when we’re working. She was not the most outgoing, playful dog when I first got her.

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