Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Training Tuesday: The Lazy Trainer Edition

She'd rather relax on the couch.

Do you ever just have lazy training weeks?

I hope I’m not alone in this, but every couple of months, I just don’t feel like training. Don’t get me wrong- I love training- but sometimes it starts to feel like more of a chore than something I enjoy. I hope it’s good for Maisy, too. I know dogs need downtime, and I’ve read about big-name trainers who give their dogs blocks of time off, so I don’t feel too guilty about it.

Anyway, that’s pretty much the summary of the last two weeks: a break. I even skipped class last week! We’ve done a bit of training here and there, but not much. For example, I’ve only done two relaxation sessions with Maisy.

Previously, I talked about moving to Day Zero of the Relaxation Protocol, which is really just mat work. You guys made some great suggestions in the comments, so I took them! We all agreed that I needed to change the picture from training mode to relaxing mode, so I’ve been waiting until Maisy begins to relax on her own in the evenings. Then I set her mat on the floor next to the couch and direct her to it. This allows me to keep the picture mostly the same- I’m not making eye contact with her, she’s already mostly relaxed, the only change is the addition of the mat.

The first time, it took her three to four minutes just to settle on the mat. She kept getting off it to sit by me on the couch, where she would promptly lie down. The second time, she settled on to the mat quicker, but she was still very “operantly relaxed.” I really think the mat has become a cue to “work” versus relaxing. Still, all four feet were touching the ground (usually, she’ll have several legs sticking straight out, stiff as a board), so she was at least more relaxed than usual.

I have two ideas to address this, and I’m not sure which to pursue. I’m hoping you guys can help me! First, if the mat is a cue to work, maybe I should change the mat. The problem with this is that she seems to have generalized her fake relaxation to any mat-type object, and I’m not sure how else to change the picture. My second idea is to move the mat. She almost never relaxes on the floor next to the couch. Instead, she chooses to lie on the couch next to me. Perhaps putting the mat there would help me get better results. Or maybe I could do both somehow?

We have done a bit of obedience stuff, though. In my last goals update, I said that we hadn’t really worked much on heeling or fronts, and that I probably wouldn’t. But, I felt kind of sad about that. I don’t know if Maisy will ever trial again, but there’s no reason not to train just in case! So, I’ve been working on calling Maisy into heel position from multiple angles, focusing on her being straight. She’s no longer over-compensating and ending up crooked when I do pivots, so that’s cool. We’re also working on straight fronts. I’m pretty impressed by how well she’s doing, even though we haven’t worked on it much.

Anyway, that’s what we’ve been up to. We’re going to class tonight, and hopefully I’ll figure out how to tackle this relaxation stuff so we can start working on it again. Let me know what you think…


Ally and Eclipse said...

I just wanted to let you know that thanks to your post about driving to walk reactive dogs that I realized there are 2 places we can walk semi-peacefully within a mile of our new house! I walked Eclipse for a mile at one of them just yesterday and while he was still a bit stressed and reacted twice it was a lot calmer than a neighborhood walk and now we can work on desensitizing to just being outside and walking rather than tackling other dogs at the same time! Thank you so much!

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I think we're all lazy! None of us do nearly as much as we want to do. I try and force myself to train with dinner every day, but it doesn't always happen and some weeks are worse than others.

I don't know if you would have any luck in switching to a different type of mat. You could try the couch, but she might focus more on looking at you or your hands if she's that close to you. You could go back to using the crate a bit more if you wanted, and then switch back and forth with the mat once she got it better.

Yay for fronts and finishes!

Crystal said...

You're the entire reason I've been working fronts and finishes. You commented on my goals post that it made you sad we weren't working on those things, and I realized that it made ME sad, too. So, thanks for being the initial motivator! :)

Robin and I discussed the mat issue after class, and she said I should try both. I have no idea what to use as a second mat, though, so I think I'll try the mat on the couch once or twice, and if that works, great, and if not, we'll see about switching up the mat. I think I'm going to avoid treats as much as possible, though, and use ear massage instead. She loves that.

Crystal said...

ALLY- I'm so glad that post helped you guys! It's funny how the easiest changes are so hard to see sometimes.

Kristine said...

Of course I do. Sometimes I think it's better not to train if I'm not in the right head space. Does that make sense? If I'm overly tired or frustrated then my training session will reflect that and nobody wins. My dog won't succeed and I will just get more stressed.

It's good to take breaks, I think. For humans and dogs. You can't be working all the time, right?

I tried working on the protocols about a year ago but after a few sessions I gave up because they weren't a lot of fun. I'm thinking now maybe I should go back to them because "operently relaxed" is pretty much Shiva's standby. Thank you for the reminder.

Crystal said...

It makes perfect sense, Kristine. And I have been kind of tired lately, so it's probably just as well that we've been taking a break.

Robin Sallie said...

It is a good thing to take a break from time to time. We need "vacations" to recharge our batteries.

Katie, Maizey and Magnus said...

RP with my Maizey is just another working game, one she is happy to play!LOL Opperantly relaxed is the perfect phrase.

But at this point I am happy enough to have shaped the mat to mean lay quietly and don't *act* reactive. It is helping her learn self control. But I do hope that eventually she can get to the truly chilled out place.

So what if you used a mat that was softer? Less mat more cushy bed? Basically I am thinking of a different surface, a different feel. I think this is what I will have to do for my girl. This one is pretty cute: http://www.overstock.com/Gifts-Flowers/Animal-Planet-Portable-Pet-Bed-with-Zipper/5195662/product.html

I don't know if that would be enough of an environmental cue to let her translate mat work into chilling out work?

Or if she sleeps in a crate at night and has a blanket or something in there could you use that? I know she isn't a big napper, but does she have a bed she normally sleeps on? Maybe something like that would have a relaxed association already attached?

I am such a novice at all this, but trying to learn, and hey idea's are idea's right?;)

You said, "She kept getting off it to sit by me on the couch, where she would promptly lie down."

How did you handle this? Did you cue her to get off and be on her mat? If I did that if would defeat the purpose since any cue sends Maizey into work mode. (I love her eager "work ethic," but it sort of defies the purpose in this case.LOL)


Crystal said...

We've already generalized the mat to a cushy bed, so that won't work. We've also done a small bandana type of thing. Honestly, I'm not sure what else I could use!

She doesn't sleep in a crate, but we do have a mat identical to our relaxation mat in the car crate. She's fairly relaxed in there.

When she got off the mat to get on the couch with me, I sent her back to the mat. Now I'm just putting the mat on the couch next to me for five minutes or so, waiting for her to relax, and then removing the mat. We just did that, and then I released her and put away the mat. Now she's right back next to me.