Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Handling Errors in Dog Training

Sorry for the quality on this image. It's a screenshot from my video!

Recently I was inspired by one of my favorite dog trainers to do a post about how I handle errors my dogs make during a training session. We've been playing that new impulse control game a lot and Zoe gave me the perfect opportunity to show you what I do if one of my dogs makes a mistake.

If you've read my post "Positive Does NOT Mean Permissive" or any of my other dog training posts you will know that I don't use aversive punishment when I train my dogs. Sometimes I will use a "no reward marker" (Oops) which tells the dog that they did not make the right choice but it's not done in an intimidating manner and I try not to use it very often because it will deflate my sensitive dogs pretty quickly. 95% of the time I focus on what the dog is doing right and mark them for that.

Since I don't use corrections and my dogs are never told "no", I am frequently asked what I do when one of my dogs makes a mistake when we are training. The answer is different for the individual situation and for each dog. If I am training a brand new thing, often nothing will happen when the dog makes a mistake. I have to figure out what I am doing wrong, where the gap is that the dog doesn't understand and we will go back to the previous step. I also try to figure out how I can make the thing I am teaching easier on the dog and more clear.

The clip below is one of our recent Impulse Control training sessions. To read about the new game we're playing please click here: Indoor Exercise and Impulse Control.


In this situation, we had been playing this impulse game for two weeks and when I asked Zoe to sit for whatever reason she chose not to. Maybe she just was not ready to work yet and if that was the case then it's okay. My dogs are allowed a choice and they don't have to do the thing if they don't want to. So I decided to try again and again she chose not to. Instead of getting frustrated or annoyed and using some sort of force or intimidation to get the "sit", I decided to send her back to her "place" and gave her a few minutes to think about it. Then we tried again. As you can see from watching the video, after her break she chose the correct position when I said the cue. Sometimes dogs just need time to think about what you are asking. Sending her to her place was not a correction or a punishment and you can see that she happily complied with it and was still happy as soon as she was released to try again.

If my dog had raced off after the cookie and ate it instead of doing the cued behavior, nothing would happen. It's already too late. If that were to happen then I failed somewhere in the earlier training with the previous games we played and we would go back to the previous step in the game. I would hold the collar, throw the cookie, cue the "sit" and then I would probably feed a treat directly to the mouth once that butt hits the ground and then release them to the second cookie with the "get it" cue.

I always want my dogs to be happy when learning and training should always be fun!

If you watch the video carefully, you can also see that I made a few errors myself, too! I was not using my "marker word" and marking her clearly. Her marker word is "YES!" and sometimes I was just saying "good girl" or "get it" without clearly marking her. Which makes for confusion. I could of also made my criteria more clear to her if I had delivered a treat to her mouth and marked her for sitting instead of immediately releasing her to the cookie. So I definitely plan on doing a few sessions where I deliver the cookie to her mouth (feeding for position) before I release her to the second cookie.

I definitely recommend taking video of your training sessions with your dog. That way you can go back and watch them and see what's going on. What you did right and what you can fix so you do better next time.

What do you do when your dog makes an error during a training session? Or if you have any questions, please be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Note: A training session and real life are treated as separate things. One is actively learning and the other is not. For a real life "bad behavior" the way I handle it would be different, although I still do not use aversive punishment. If one of my dogs does something undesirable outside of a training session, we often have an alternative behavior to fall back on. For instance if my dog is barking at the window, I can ask her to go to her bed. Or if my dog is jumping up, I can ask for a sit. Where as in a training session, I'd probably give the dog a break like I did in the video or go back to the previous step. Occasionally in a training session I might ask for a very easy task that I am sure the dog knows and then end the training session on a good note and try again later.






23 comments:

  1. Great post! I agree that taking videos of your training sessions is beneficial. I've been doing that a lot recently when teaching Ethel the weaves!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's awesome! I bet it's fun rewatching agility training, too! :D

      Delete
  2. Great post! Yes, training MUST be fun and must strengthen the relationship!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

    ReplyDelete
  3. The best thing we have learned in nose work so far is silence is golden. If Mom can give us our start command and use body language with no talk until we find the hide it works the best. Pushing with a leg, Mom changing direction, hand signals, just some of the cues we take much better than commands. If we happen to need to do something with obedience, then she says wrong and we start over, no is for real bad stuff we do in day to day life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I do that, too! Sometimes being quiet is very helpful because they can concentrate better. I actually never use the word "no" in my dog training because that word is used so much in our daily lives that I don't want my dogs to feel punished when I'm just speaking to my husband. I actually have to be very careful with that sort of thing because my dogs are really sensitive and they could easily think I am talking to them.

      Delete
  4. I'm very, very behind in reading, so I'm going back to your impulse control post. Here is my question (and maybe it's been answered in the first post, but I don't know because I haven't read it yet.) LOL What would you do if you threw the cookie and she went and got it? I can see Delilah doing that...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great question! I'm sorry that I didn't make it more clear and I will go back and edit the post. If my dog goes and eats the kibble without doing the cued behavior, nothing happens. It's too late, anyways. If that happens, it means I failed in the earlier training (it's yer choice game and the other "leave it" games we've played in the previous post) to make them understand what they are supposed to do. I would go back to the previous step of holding the collar, throwing the food and cueing the "sit" then when "sit" happens I would release and say "get it!". Or I might even reward the actual "sit" before releasing them to the second cookie to make sure they understand the position I am asking for.

      I actually did have this happen yesterday when playing the game with Phoenix. I had been working with Zoe for a while and forgot that they had different cues. Zoe has a pause in between her cues which is the word "and" it basically means, "hold on, there's another cue coming" so I can do "sit" and "down" and "sit" and "sit pretty". She knows that "and" means another cue is coming so wait for it. Phoenix's pause is just "wait'.. Confusing, I know! So I messed up and Phoenix ate the treat without being released to it. It was TOTALLY my fault. :)

      Delete
  5. LOL, that reminds me so much of my huskies!!! they like to choose whether or not to listen at some points. You handled it great!!!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep! My dogs are definitely somewhat like a husky personality. They don't always care about what I'm trying to get them to do and a lot of the training I've done is convincing them that it was their idea. :D

      Delete
  6. Great post! I do this with Ziva, if she won't give me a sit when I occasionally ask while we are playing then I put the toy down and don't throw it for a few minutes. Then go back and try again. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think sometimes they just need a break and to think about it! :D

      Delete
  7. Bain can be really stubborn, so I try to make training sessions as fun as possible. I think what I will try doing is working on training during off leash play with his play date friend, Eva. I really like the idea of video taping training, I'll definitely start doing that with our upcoming sessions.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Fabulous post! Taking videos of sessions really helps you see the errors, even ones you aren't thinking about during the training session, like body language.
    For me, too, it depends on which dog is being taught. I can't use an "oops" type of thing with Pike, or he shuts down. I generally just end his session with an easy trick he knows if he messes up, as he tends to get nervous about WHAT happened wrong, rather than what to do right.
    With Nola, I can use an "oops" or "nope, try again!" without a problem. If anything, that seems to make her more determined to get the behavior right and get her reward.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it interesting how different dogs can be? I really think that training the sensitive ones is WAY harder than any other dog personality. Skill level: expert! :D

      Delete
  9. Fellow sensitive dog owner! And Nala does something similar to this, sometimes. She's such a willing creature, and usually has this look on her face like, "I'd like to, but I can't!" Or she throws out a guess, and eventually I realize that I never actually taught her to sit while I am sitting on the floor. Oops!

    It looks like a break from training was exactly what Zoe needed here! I'll add that to my arsenal (right now my arsenal is mostly screwup/reset cookies, haha).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zoe will get that look sometimes, too! It's taken me a while to figure out what it meant, though and I feel bad. I also do the screwup/reset cookies! :D Training sensitive dogs is HARD!

      Delete
  10. Thanks for explaining that. I have trouble, as a cross-over trainer, keeping my darn mouth shut when my dog makes a mistake (I use an upbeat "oops" too). I like your idea of a small time-out to let your dog think about it... I'm going to try that the next time I need it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm not sure I understand the objective of holding her collar. Can you explain? Thanks! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The purpose of holding the collar is to build drive. Basically you're holding them back and teasing them a bit to drive them toward the thing. I want to get my dog into drive and teach her that even when she's in drive she can still control her impulses and listen to me. Later this will translate into real world situations with enough practice. Also, she generally doesn't like being held back so it's good practice for her. In the beginning stages of the training, you can also set the up for success by holding the collar, asking for the sit and not releasing the collar until you are sure you're going to get the sit. That way they don't go racing off after the treat without you giving the cue to do so. I hope that makes sense!

      Delete

Hi! Thank you for commenting!
All comments are being moderated for spam.
Thank you for understanding!