As many of my friends, clients, and colleagues now, I lost my father to a sudden, violent death three weeks ago. As a result, I’m seeking as much healing time as possible and have been away from my blog. Thank you all for your patience during this sabbatical.
One of my training mantras for my clients is “something old, something new, something borrowed, something you.” What does this mean?
Behavior is in a constant state of flux. If you train a behavior and then never work on maintaining, improving, or refining it, the behavior will likely fall apart. Remember, behaviors which are never reinforced go into extinction. Schedule at least one short training session every day to brush up those already-trained, “easy” behaviors, proofing them for fluency. Fluency can always be improved. For more on the relevant components of fluency, check out this article I wrote for Karen Pryor Clicker Training (registration required).
Working on the same task all the time is boring for dogs and their people. In order to keep training interesting and fun, schedule at least one short training session daily to teach your dog something new and keep the learning game engaging, exciting, and unpredictably fun for both of you.
Go on youtube and search “clicker dog training videos.” Watch training videos from other trainers and try to teach your dog a new behavior based on the instructional video. It’s always good to learn from someone with more experience than you; indeed, they are the only people that can teach you new and important skills.
If you’ve never taught a behavior with a lure, watch how a good lure-reward behavior teaches the behavior and try to do it yourself. Likewise, if you’ve never used shaping, capturing, or targeting to train a new behavior, search for videos of these techniques and see if you can follow the training steps laid forth. Trying new things, as long as the techniques in questions are fun for you and the dog, will help you be a better trainer. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you a while to learn new skills – make notes when and if you get stuck in your training plan and think of ways you can modify the plan to set you and your dog up for training success.
Be creative! Come up with your own training plan for a new behavior and implement your plan. Every successful training technique, method, or plan started out as one person’s experiment. Be mindful that training should be fun for you and the dog; avoid coercion of any sort in developing your training plan. If you’re not sure how to create a training plan, my friend and colleague Laura VanArendonk Baugh has written two fantastic articles for Karen Pryor Clicker Training:
See if you can fit in four training sessions each day, 3 – 5 minutes in length is fine, and remember to always be working on something old, something new, something borrowed, and something you!