Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mistakes in Training

As any good trainer will tell you, there's always something new to learn about dog training. We certainly don't have all the answers and our own dogs are not perfectly obedient. Moreover, we make mistakes too. Big ones, small ones - it doesn't matter. They're there. Being able to identify your mistakes and move forward from them is what is so wonderful about clicker training and positive reinforcement training. Thank goodness, because I've made a teensy-weensy mistake myself...

Kuna is coming along nicely with his clicker training. He now understands what the click means and when he hears it, he will repeat the behavior that earned it. Yesterday, I was working on "kennel" with him. We had been training for about 6 minutes when all of a sudden, he peed. I picked him up to interrupt his stream (which I noted was minimal) and took him outside. No harm, no foul. That was my fault. Later that afternoon, we were training again and he peed! Again, it was not a lot and he had just gone to the bathroom right before we started training. That's when it raised a flag in my head. Of course, he's not housebroken at all but to pee in the middle of getting food and right after he had already gone told me this was no ordinary pee. Kuna is stressed.

One of my mistakes was that I didn't have a timer...I only assume I had been working with him for about 6 minutes. Today, I timed us during our training session. We were working on "lie down". Sure enough, at 4 minutes and 35 seconds, Kuna peed again. Bingo. I had been pushing him too far. Learning new behaviors is tough on a puppy and while clicker training can be fun, it's also work. It takes a lot of puppy brain power to figure out what's going on!

To counteract the damage I have done (I don't want Kuna stressing every time the clicker comes out), throughout the day I am asking for a "sit", clicking and treating and then ending it there.  Next time I walk by his x-pen, I click/treat him for not jumping. That's it. We will still have to work in sessions, which I will now keep to about 3 minutes to make sure he doesn't overload his puppy brain.

Thankfully, we are not working with corrections! If I had been trying to get him to lie down by using force, it would have definitely stressed him out a lot more! And the damage caused by that would be much more significant!

Something to keep in mind when training your own puppy!


1 comment:

  1. This is such a good reminder. One that I need constantly. It's so easy to just keep going when your pup is doing well and learning.

    I'm getting better at realizing my pup Honey works better in short bursts--now if only I could learn that about myself!

    Thanks for the post.