A small sample of some of the training Mary and Jenny have been doing with Specs. Videos are at the end of post.
Specs learns to push a big ball.
Why? Because it’s fun. Because the more she learns the easier she is to teach. Because we’re planning a fitness regime for her in the future which may well require using an exercise ball. Because body awareness is very good for her future agility training. Because it’s fun, did I say that already?
Our training is far from perfect.
Jenny: Lots of late clicks. Although I think I might have got the sound out of sync. My story, I’m sticking to it.
Mary: could have given more keep going signals. KGS? Feedback. Remember that game children’s game where you approach a hidden object and if you’re closer to it you’re hotter, get further away, you’re colder? It’s like that. KGS tells the puppy she’s getting warmer… Can really help an inexperienced dog or a dog who’s trying really hard to work out what you’re after and not quite sure she’s on the right track. I say things like: “Keep going,” “You’re doing it,” “That’s my girly,” that kind of thing. With repetition the dog starts to get the idea that when she hears you say “Keep going,” it means a reward is on its way if she keeps going, then bingo! Click/treat.
Alternatively, there’s colder. “Oh dear,” or “Whoops a daisy,” “Again!” if dog offers behaviours that are on the wrong track. All very valuable clues, information.
I should stick to just the one positive and one negative. KGS: “Keep going” and fail marker: “Again” are probaby my favourites. But I’m human and the feedback seems to come out of my mouth on auto-pilot and dogs are very kind, they seem to get it, so I’ll stick to my not-quite-perfect-mash-up of feedback words.
I think you’ll agree, from start to finish of this video set (or the highlights if you’re short of time), little Specs definitely gets the hang of what we’re after. And she appears to be enjoying herself, we certainly were.
Did we sneak in extra training sessions with the ball that aren’t on the video? You know, I don’t think we did. I think these were it. Puppies are so easy.
I think also if I had been paying better attention I wouldn’t have looked for just the one behaviour with the ball. I’d actually like her to learn to push it with her nose as well as walk it along on her back feet. What is learned first is learned best, and you can find yourself having a bit of a battle to get your dog to stop doing that first learned, very strong behaviour. We’ll see, eh?
So, when I’m teaching anything new, I try not to stick to the one thing. Work on stands and downs, heels and recalls, spin one way and spin the other. If you just spin the one way, it can become that battle to get the other. I bet any dog trainers reading this are nodding knowingly at this point.
And actually this reporting has got me thinking again, I’d like her to learn to dribble it too and bash it with her hips, so much to teach.
Best bits? We were nice and generous with our rewards. Little Specs was left in little doubt that interacting with the ball is a VERY GOOD THING. We mostly gave more that one titbit per repetition. And we placed the rewards so they gave us good bang for our bucks. We gave rewards on/near ball to increase her positive associations with the ball. Or we gave them a bit away from the ball so she was placed to deliver another repetition, so she could approach it again to put her feet back on it .
But still, not perfect and I like that. Well actually I don’t, I’d rather be perfect. But I’m happy to share warts and all. Because the most important thing about training is the doing of it. We could have done better but we enjoyed ourselves, the dog made progress, all good. I think if we worry too much about doing it perfectly we end up not doing it at all. And as long as we to the training, the dog will learn, they’re very good at learning. As long as we’re not abusing the dog, (please don’t), we’ll make progress. Always, always, just do it.
Approx 15 March 2015