Okay, last installment.
First, I want to clarify a couple of things from yesterday’s post in regard to returning to reward on the out of sight stays — I said I wouldn’t keep coming back to treat him because it could end up causing more stress than it resolved when no treats appeared during group exercises at a trial. BUT, in training I will vary the amount of time I stay out of sight (not always 3 and 5 minutes) and will return (to heel position), jackpot and break him out of the position, then either end the session or do another out of sight exercise.
Just like rewarding at different times during heeling, the stay reward will come randomly, maybe after 20 seconds, maybe after 2 minutes, etc. But then the exercise will have a clear ending after the reward - hopefully building the understanding that when mom comes back, I get my goodies and we’re done with that part.
Today’s topic: can you train too much? Don’t laugh. Lots of my friends and students admit to not making regular training a priority but I tend to have the opposite problem. Weird. I know. That’s me.
Problem C: I overtrain. It’s ironic that even though I am guilty of overtraining, I still never managed to work Phoenix long enough at any given skill to confront lack of effort errors.
Cause: This is truly MY problem, not Phoenix’s. I’m OCD abut training. I love to work with my dog and feel like I’m slacking if I don’t get out there and do something most days of the week. Some trainers might argue that your dog should work as often as you want, as long as you want, whenever you want. That might be true in theory but imagine something you really, really enjoy doing - now imagine doing it every single day for years without ever getting a break. You HAVE to do it. How long would that be fun?
I wouldn’t say Nix was dragging miserably through our training sessions but I do admit occasionally catching MYSELF thinking, “I really don’t feel like training tonight but we HAVE to.” This should have been a signal to take a day off because I wasn’t giving my dog everything he needed — a focused and enthusiastic handler — even though I felt compelled to have a training session that day.
1) Plan built-in “days off” into our training calendar each week. I would rather have fewer really exceptional workouts than more frequent “going through the motions” ones.
2) Yes, I have a training calendar so I can decide how to make the best use of my time each week: what times are best to train at home, train before a class I’m teaching/taking, train with friends on the weekend, train at a new site, etc. It helps assure that training time happens even when life gets crazy.
3) Have a specific plan for each training session so I don’t fritter away our time and not accomplish anything. Even if we only train for 10 minutes, it’s important to my dog that I have a clear picture in my head of what I want us to accomplish.
4) Instead of two nights of training in familiar surroundings at home, plan a road trip to train at a park or shopping mall instead. Then take the next night off.
5) Grab opportunities during daily life to ask for obedience skills: quick set ups, fetching household items, Utility signals in the dining room, etc. Throwing these out-of-the-blue requests at Phoenix will give me a clearer picture of what he understands and will help him learn that compliance is not optional, whether he thinks he’s “working” or not. (This is the dog who takes a great deal of joy in stealing dirty laundry out of the hamper and racing around the house with it; we practice fronts with dirty socks frequently. Eww.)
Whew. This has been a lotta thinkin’. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Hopefully it will be helpful to you and your dogs, too. Don't repeat my mistakes. Make brand new ones!