Saturday, January 5, 2013

Failures in Dog Training

You shouldn't blog when you're sick and tired because then you fail just a little bit harder. Especially when you're working out a post about failure and somehow you hit publish prematurely and not save!

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I tend to freeze when something goes "wrong." If I haven't thought a scenario through before, if it occurs, I'm a little lost as to what my course of action in the heat of the moment should be. More so in the realm of behavior modification, than in the realm of teaching a skill/trick etc. That seems to just be the kind of person I am.

Positive ISN'T permissive, but sometimes it's hard to think on the fly as to what your consequence should be, and positive sometimes looks a little permissive to someone who isn't in your head.

Do I ignore the behavior, ask for a different (incompatible) behaviour, 
NRM (non reward marker), time out?! 
A combination of the above? NRM, refocus and perform a easier behavior?

Anyway, my failures as a dog trainer (and they are mine, not the dog's - despite my frustration/feelings about the dog's "bad" behavior) may make things a little more difficult to understand for the dog. 

But do you know what? That's okay. I'm a positive, reward based dog trainer. All the error does is force me to be a little more accurate the next time we work on a particular behavior or skill or whatever.

It may make it take a little longer to teach my dog what I want but it does not damage my dog. There isn't the unintended negative fall out that can occur with correction based or alpha theory approach to training. Moreover, it does not damage my relationship with my dog. They're not afraid of me and they're not afraid of trying for fear of making a mistake and being punished.

Even if my dog is rehearsing a behavior I do not want repeated, it just means that I need to be a little more on the ball next time and work a little harder to prevent that. Or practice a little more management because my dog does not yet have the skills to deal with that situation.

My dogs are a product of my training, both the good and the bad. They might jump up on my lap every time I sit down, because this is the behavior I've allowed and reinforced. They don't jump up because "They don't respect my authority." They jump up because I've allowed it 50 million times and they get pet when they do it. It is a rewarding behavior they have perfected through my reinforcement of that behavior. They wouldn't do it if they didn't get anything for it or find it rewarding in some way.

Constant physical management of your dog also gets you no where except for frustrated with the dog and the situation. You want to teach your dog to make the correct choice. In order for them to do that, as a dog trainer you have to break the behavior down into smaller pieces and set them up for success.

A plan to work on specific training is great - however, sometimes you need to be adaptable. Work with that your dog gives you. If they just don't have the focus for what you wanted to work on, work on the rehearsals of bad behavior that they are offering!

It's okay to fail sometimes. That's a conversation with your dog in which they're telling you what they don't yet understand or know how to deal with.

Train the behavior, build it, grow it, make it reinforcing. Then test it. Do you understand it in this situation, how about that one? It's a game, not a interrogation!

Not everyone is on the same journey or place in their journey that you are. That's okay too, work on yours and don't worry about everyone else.

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