In Part 5, I laid out our goals for 2015. As I was working on one of those goals today, I was reminded of how easy it is to make mistakes! So it seemed like a good time to cover that subject.
Mistake #1: When we started Luke’s private training lessons, one of the first things we did with the trainer (after discussing our goals) was to give a demonstration of what Luke already knew how to do. It didn’t take long for Dave to point out one of our first mistakes! We were overusing Luke’s name “Luke, do this, Luke, do that, Luke…Luke….”…you get the idea. He felt it was to the point where he just wasn’t listening to us when we said his name. That can be made worse if you are following their name with “no” or something negative all the time, or with just nothing. Why look at you when you say their name, if nothing good is going to come of it?
Mistake #2: Repeating commands. It’s kind of on the same idea as overusing the name. It’s our tendency when Luke doesn’t do what we want him to, to keep repeating it, over and over. Sit, sit, sit. When you do that, the command starts to lose its meaning. Or they think they don’t have to listen until you’ve said it multiple times.
I have to tell you that these are two of the hardest habits to break, and we’re still guilty of doing it. Even my hubby, who I think is better at training than I am, does it a lot (and don’t I enjoy pointing it out to him….). I have to stop myself if I’m doing it, and then try to get Luke’s attention in a different way, like giving a sharp “hey” (raising my voice does work with him), or just getting his attention by moving right up to him.
When we started training with Luke, we had already overused “come” so we trained him to the word “here” instead. The girls are used to “come” so we still use that as well, and it does sometimes work with him, especially if he’s with his sisters and sees what they do. But if it’s just him, I’ll use “here”. But I’m sure it’s much better to stick with one word if you can. I have in my mind that I need to train the girls to the word “here”, but their training is coming much more slowly.
Mistake #3: Moving too fast. I had just started working on a new trick for Luke, and had decided on “roll over” for his first one that’s just for fun. I looked on the internet for instructions, but they really had me doing it all wrong. They had me doing everything at once. It didn’t go well (but I did remember to not get frustrated….we just practiced some of his other commands and ended on a high note). I went back on the internet and found a YouTube video that gave a much better demo doing it in steps, we had one more short session and he was starting to get the first part. Honestly, I just expected it to be easy and for him to catch on right off, and he didn’t. So we’re breaking it down into steps and he did well on the first step and we quit when he was just starting to get the second. It doesn’t pay to be impatient and just use the first instructions you find. If I’d looked further in the first place I could have saved myself some trouble!
Mistake #4: Letting them form bad habits. I have written about how we’re training Luke to go to his bed when I’m working in the kitchen. He’s the first dog we’ve done that with. Our beagle Kobi was constantly under my feet in the kitchen, and I let him do it. For some reason, the girls were never bad about it though…they will lie just outside my work area most of the time. When Luke started his counter surfing, I came to realize that I needed him out of the kitchen for his own safety (he licked a hot pan when he was a puppy, not that it phased him any).
I’d be guilty of giving everyone a piece of cheese when I was making a sandwich, and then wonder why they don’t stay out of the kitchen when I’m in there. So I no longer do that, and we also moved their treats to a cabinet on the edge of the kitchen, where we also keep their food. They can still get nibbles when I’m cooking, but they have to sit outside my work area to do so. Luke is getting really good about going to his bed without even being told now, though it’s still a work in progress.
Just today I screwed up. We got these yummy new treats to try, that are for both cats and dogs. They’re pure dried fish. I gave the dogs some, and then broke a few pieces to give to Samantha on the counter. Now, imagine my shock when Luke jumped up on the counter to steal her treats! Just kidding, I wasn’t shocked, I was just telling myself how stupid that was! I believe that’s what they call “management” when it comes to training. Dogs are going to be dogs, and you can’t expect miracles. Sometimes you just have to keep temptation out of their reach.
Training is an ongoing process, for both the dog and the trainer! I’ve discovered that bad habits are hard to break, but you have to just keep working at it. What mistakes have you made, or what bad habits do you find difficult to break when training your dogs? Also, can anyone recommend a good book on clicker training to save me from wasted internet research (or at least direct me towards one good website)?
Disclaimer: Any and all advice shared here is my own opinion based on our own experiences. I am not a professional trainer, and you should always consult one for serious behavioral issues.
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