Monday, January 2, 2012
Becoming a patient trainer
What training skill do you hope to develop in 2012? I'm not talking about a new behavior in your dog, I'm talking about a skill for you, the trainer.
May I suggest patience?
Most trainers (especially beginners, but even the advanced trainers) have a tendency to go too fast for their student (the animal), and to feel frustrated when the student is not learning as fast as the trainer wants him or her to learn. That reaction, by the way, is very frustrating for the student as well. The answer is to adjust to the speed of the student and learn to be patient. Scrutinize your systematic training plan and make sure it is GREAT in terms of its adherence to rate of reinforcement (ie, treating frequently), and its clarity about the particular criteria you're shaping (ie, are you working right now on distance? Duration? Distraction level? Desensitization to a trigger?). Lastly, check to make sure the timing of your click is fast enough-- it should happen at the exact moment of the desired behavior (and then follow quickly with a reward).
I enjoy following the work of animal behavior graduate student Mary Hunter, whose blog is engaging and does a beautiful job of illustrating the exact same concepts you are trying to learn as a person training a dog. You can find it here:
So how do you develop patience? I find the most effective way is to keep explicit records of your training. More on that in the next post.
Happy 2012, and may you and your dog have a richly satisfying life together.