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

Posts tagged ‘goals’

What NOT to do in Dog Training: Mistakes of a Dog Trainer

Athena is Stressed

Athena is Stressed

Yesterday’s training session was such a failture, but I learned so much from the experience, and I’m beginning to appreciate the role that photos and video-taking  play in my training sessions.

I took Athena out to a spot that’s nearly 30 miles away from home in order to work her. It’s a beautiful park with flowers and tall trees against a backdrop of mountains.  In this heat, I have to seek out spots with shady trees to train, if I train during the day.  Before we got there, though, I had several stops to make.

Athena had been in the car for about two hours before we finally arrived at our destination, and she jumped out of the car eagerly (on leash, of course), and began sniffing and pulling on her leash.  That should have been my first clue that this dog was way stimulated.  Then she began running circles around me as she watched people and cars pass by.  Her responses to my cues were slow, or sometimes non-existent.  It was as though she was working on autopilot that wasn’t working too well.  She was not too interested in her favorite treats: liver.

But I had my plan for the day, and wanted to get on with it.  I planned on letting her “read” the pee-mail then doing a spot of training, and finally videotaping a short instructional clip on clicker training basics.  A great plan, I thought, but one that lacked focus, detail, and a plan B.  Animals are unpredictable:  sometimes they’ll work for you, sometimes they won’t. 

 One thing I recognized, and I’m glad I did, was that Athena was not being slow and distracted because she was disobedient.  She was overstimulated–too many things demanding her attention.  I expected her to work while she was way over threshold.  I expected to run through the Novice sequence with her, but she was pulling on her leash.

As I look back, I should have focused on “fixing” one issue:  the pulling on the leash, and not worry about precision heeling, or moving sits, or recalls.  Goal-oriented that I am, I persisted, then to add insult to injury, whenever she didn’t do what I wanted, I said “No,” or “Eh eh”—those well-worn NRMs (no-reward markers) that adds stress to an already stressed out dog.

In the photo you can see signs of stress in Athena.  Notice how her ears are back and she’s licking her nose.  Move your cursor over the image and click for a larger view.

Here’s what I could have done differently:

  • Concentrate on fixing one thing—pulling on the leash, and using the Premack Principle as a reward (letting her do something she really wants when she does something I want)
  • Work in a smaller area instead of trying to walk the entire park with her.
  • Ditch the NRMs, especially in this situation.

 Sometimes in training, the trainer must shelve, at least temporarily, his agenda and attend to the immediate needs of the animal.

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Being a Successful Clicker Trainer–Tip 3

Have a goal before you take your dog out to train.  Make the goals small and attainable for your dog.  If he is only just learning to sit, you could spend a training session rewarding the dog for simply sitting without paying too much attention to HOW he sits.  You can always increase your criteria in subsequent sessions.

Goals for your first Lessons

Hey Everyone,

Welcome back to another semester of music lessons.  I hope you all had  a fun-filled, yet relaxing summer.  Now it’s time to get back to work.

If you’ve practiced during the summer, GOOD!  I look forward to hearing you at your next lesson.

If you didn’t get much practice or any during the break, fear not.  Just follow the steps below to get you back into the swing of things:

I would like each of you to come prepared to play 2 major scales, 2 minor scales, and 2 arpeggios and 1 broken chord (for those of you in the grade levels that require broken chords).  I will listen to these at your first lesson in September.

There is a special prize if you can play the minimum listed above.  If you return in September and can play ALL of your scales in your first lesson ACCURATELY, then there will be an extra special prize for you (No, Janice, it won’t be a sticker).

Also, if you are planning on taking an ABRSM exam next year (2010), then please bring along the appropriate exam book so that we can start on our lessons.

If you are a beginner, and will not be taking a piano exam, I would like for you to be able to play for me the last two pieces that you did at the end of last semester.  You will need to play:

1) The correct notes

2) The correct rhythm (counting)

3) The correct fingering

I look forward to seeing each and every one of you and journeying on to the next level together!

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