|Everyone loves a KISS!|
Hi everyone! Today we are joining the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop! This month's them is "training mistakes" but any positive training posts are welcome. Thanks so much to the hosts and be sure to click around on the linky list to see the other ones!
Ah... training mistakes. There's so many places I could go with this but I'm going to take you on my own personal battle with myself. Fighting the "Frustration Demon."
If you've visited my blog before you might know that I am a cross-over trainer. What that means is that I used to use correctional (or traditional) based training techniques and crossed over to using positive training methods. One of the things I don't talk about very often is that I do tend to get frustrated sometimes. I struggle with staying patient. Both of my dogs are sensitive and Zoe is more sensitive than Phoenix. If I happen to breath wrong (SIGH) during training sessions Zoe will think she's in trouble and she will shut down, which is even more frustrating. Let's face it, dog training takes a certain level of skill and lots of practice to get good at it. It's not an instant thing and it's not always easy to train a dog. Even the best trainers and the best dogs have bad days.
When you've used punishment based techniques in the past, it's really easy to slip back into using them because they tend to be reinforcing for the handler. In example, the dog pulls on the leash so the handler jerks the leash, the dog stops pulling momentarily and the handler is then reinforced for jerking the leash. The dog didn't learn anything other than "sometimes my owner is scary and OUCH!" (Not to mention you could really hurt your dog's neck if the leash is attached to the collar or a halti.) Whatever is reinforced is likely to be repeated which is why you see so many people jerking the leash and then it basically becomes nagging and the dogs start to learn to ignore it. Which is why leash corrections tend to fail.
|"Please don't jerk the leash, mom! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to chase the bunny!||"|
Zoe and I both had a bad day 2.5 years ago. That was seriously not my finest moment in my dog owning and training history. :( I was very, very upset and frustrated with Zoe because it was our last time at the beach before moving to California (I was already emotional because I didn't want to move to CA and thought I'd never see this beach again) and she blew off a recall to chase a rabbit. She would not stay with us, left the beach and was up in the parking lot trying to find the bunny. She could of been killed by a car but try explaining that to a dog. It was terrifying. She would not behave at all for the first hour we were there and she ended up being stuck on the leash. Very, very unusual for her. I remember thinking that I had put way too much training on her for her to act like that. (Perhaps forgetting dogs are sometimes dogs and do dumb things) It was extremely embarrassing and I was SO mad at her. I still feel really badly for being mad at her and for jerking on her leash. I work really hard on myself and with training her so that hopefully we never have that happen again. I know that it was not her fault she went after the rabbit, I set her up to fail. It was totally my fault.
Everything is training. If you're not training the dog, then the dog is training you or you are training you. It's all about reinforcement, even if it's so subtle that you don't realize it's happening. This is something that I constantly battle with myself on. I am constantly working on myself to be more patient and to be less frustrated. To not jerk the leash when the dog pulls or sigh heavily when they don't get something I'm trying to teach. To calm my brain when it's screaming "WHY don't you GET this!?! We've done it 100 times!!" Occasionally I forget my dogs are dogs. Getting frustrated is definitely a training mistake. It does not help anyone, dog or human and it can really upset the student because they have no idea why mom or dad is upset. It can also really promote "learned helplessness" and can shut a dog down which you don't want.
So what do I do when I get frustrated and patients are wearing thin? I immediately stop what I'm doing. I don't want to accidentally use a correction and reinforce myself for using corrections. Honestly, I really don't want to slip back into my old methods so preventing that is key. A break can really help both the person and the dog. It definitely helps me to refocus and calm down. I will also switch dogs and work on something different and easy with the other dog. Switching dogs and switching behaviors has helped immensely. Before I go back to training the original thing that caused the frustration I will ask myself why the dog is not getting the behavior I'm trying to train. Do I need to break that behavior down into more simple steps? I will also check the dog over to make sure there isn't something physically wrong with them, especially if they refuse to do a known behavior. I also try to remember that dogs are like us and sometimes they have off days, too. So if that seems to be the case we stop for the day and try again the next day.
Try to remember that when a dog does something wrong or your training is not working it's never the dog's fault!
If we are out walking and they are pulling (pulling is a HUGE pet peeve of mine), I will stop walking and wait until I can get their focus back or if my husband is with me I will hand the leashes to him so I can have a break. I will also think about competing reinforcers and if there's something I can do to make the dog want me and what I have more than the other distraction. Maybe I need better treats or I need to move further away from the thing that's distracting them. Maybe I need to whip out the super cool toy that Phoenix loves. What can I do to get that dog to focus and pay attention to me? I think about what I can do better in my training to make walks easier on all three of us. Maybe the dog just needs to sniff that bush for a little while and I can give them some slack and wait for a minute or two. Their lives are too short to waste on being mad about sniffing a bush.
I would also like to note that if your dog is doing a behavior out of fear (like pulling on the leash to get away from a scary thing) at that moment they are too afraid to learn. It's best not to force them or work on any training until they are out of that fear.
Positive reinforcement training is all about being creative with your training. That's part of the fun. Sometimes it can be hard to be creative and to troubleshoot what's going wrong by myself so when that happens I will chat up one of my training friends and we work on it together. I honestly believe that you can train anything and solve any behavioral problem with PR you just have to be creative and consistent and most importantly be patient. If you are frustrated with the dog, stop what you're doing and take a break. Try to see it from the dog's point of view and see where the hole in their understanding is. Break it down into smaller steps. Don't give up and don't be afraid to ask for help if you're stuck.
Have you gotten mad or frustrated with your dog? What do you do when that happens?
As always I'm here to help, if you have any training questions feel free to email me or facebook me. If I don't know the answer it's very likely that I know someone who does. I also have a ton of resources available on my training page.