Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Goals

Last year, my goals revolved around skills I wanted to teach Maisy. Better heeling, fronts, learning to jump, that kind of stuff. This year, my goals are mostly about me. I want to be a better trainer.

Criteria? What criteria?
Photo by Robin Sallie.

And while there are lots of ways that I could improve my training skills, I want to keep this list on the short side so that I don't get overwhelmed. So, here are my five dog training goals for the year:

1. Write training plans.
As the picture above implies, I'm not so hot at maintaining criteria. Part of the problem is undoubtedly because I don't always think through what my criteria should be. Writing training plans should help this. Training plans should also help me adjust the criteria during a shaping session, and hopefully prevent me from getting stuck at certain levels.

2. Keep training records.
What good is a plan without records? I'm hoping that keeping records will help me stick to the plans, allow me to celebrate successes more often, help me readjust my approach when things aren't going well, and just make me a better trainer all-around.

3. Train in shorter sessions.
When Maisy is doing well with a task, it's really fun. I love the thrill of success, and I hate to end it. Unfortunately, when I keep pushing for "just a little bit more," Maisy almost always starts to fall apart. Then I get frustrated, so she does worse, and it's a vicious cycle. Worse, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and as a result, I don't want to work on the task anymore. Shorter sessions (and I'm talking in the 1 to 3 minute range) should make things better for us both.

4. Learn how to achieve stimulus control.
Stimulus control means that, during a training session, the dog will immediately respond to the cue when it's given, the dog will not perform or offer the behavior without the cue, the dog will not perform the behavior in response to a different cue, and the dog will not offer a different/wrong behavior in response to the cue. I don't have anything under stimulus control, so this year, I want to get sit, down, and stand under stimulus control with both verbal-only and hand-signal-only cues. Wish me luck!

5. Teach Maisy 12 tricks.
They're all tricks to the dog, so this is really just 12 behaviors. However, I do want the bulk of them to be actual tricks so that when friends or family ask about all that training we do, I can show them something a little more impressive than a front or finish (normal people just can't appreciate a good front). Teaching 12 tricks will also give me a way to practice writing plans, keeping records, and working in shorter sessions. Stimulus control will not be required, however generalization is.

I have a number of other things I want to do this year, but they aren't official goals. I want to keep working with Maisy on her reactivity so she's more comfortable with life. I hope to go to a trial, or even just a run through, without her going over threshold. I'd like to become a "cleaner" trainer- get the food off my body, use fewer body cues, etc.- and get more things under verbal command. I want to make more videos and take more photos. I definitely want to take Maisy hiking as often as possible.

And mostly- I want to have fun with her. The goal of all these things is to continue to build trust and deepen our relationship. That has always been what trialing and training has been about for me, and no matter where we're at in another year, as long as we're together, I'll call it successful.


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Yay tricks!!! I'm a little bummed though that you didn't write out any obedience training goals. You better not slack!

I don't think I want really anything under complete stimulus control. I want immediate response, and the correct response to a cue. But I don't really care if the dog offers the behavior in absence of a cue. Many times I WANT the dog to offer certain behaviors such as eye contact, lying down (purposefully not just because they're tired!), or even heel position. I don't care that Lance offers "beg" to any purpose he think might give him a treat when he's not working with me. And I don't worry about the dog doing it inappropriately because if there was a situation where it would be considered inappropriate then the dog would already be under a different cue- heeling in the ring, or in a stay somewhere else. I know a lot of trainers do want complete stimulus control but I rather like not having it :)

Crystal said...

Well, Laura, I did say that they're all tricks to Maisy, so I'm not really differentiating between tricks vs. competition behaviors. For example, I definitely think the dumbbell counts as a trick (especially since getting a good take and hold will hopefully transfer over to other objects).

As for stimulus control... I mostly want the experience of working on it, which is why I'm only working on the three basics. I'm also planning on focusing on getting an immediate, correct response (Maisy sometimes seems like she's guessing, even with the three basic cues).

I'm less concerned about offered behaviors when no cue has been given (that part of stimulus control has always perplexed me a bit to be honest), especially since Maisy does have a default down that I want to keep.

Sam said...

I wish I was as organized as you - your behavior logs are really something to behold, and I bet your additional training records are really going to make an impact on your training with Maisy.

I'll be interested in your exploration of stimulus control, as it's one of the things I knew nothing about when I started studying Learning and Behavior this fall. I still have a lot to learn about it (I can't wrap my mind around the experiments on stimulus control the same way I can think so easily about simple classical and operant conditioning. But, stimulus control really is of interest to me because it seems to combine both).

Looking forward to more great posts by you in 2011!

Ninso said...

Good stuff! All stuff I need to work on, except for training logs, which I will probably never do. I am just not that organized. The not performing the behavior without the cue part of stimulus control is confusing to me as well, and almost seems contradictory for a clicker trainer who uses shaping. If my dog knows a down under stimulus control, how would I ever shape a roll over or anything else that started in that position. But the rest of it makes sense. Greater reliability in performing the correct behavior on cue.

Joanna said...

Good job writing specific, attainable goals! :)

Jess and Lola said...

Good luck with your goals! What tricks are you planning on teaching Maisy? I've found that 'spin' never fails to please my friends, with my older dog. :)

Oh, and first time commenter here, I recently started following you. Sorry if that's at all weird!

Crystal said...

I'm a geek who loves charts and logs, so it's actually kind of amazing I've never done training logs before. I've tried, but have had trouble figuring out how to organize them. However, I've done some reading that's given me new ideas, and I'm signed up for the "Data Driven Training" lab at Clicker Expo, so I think I can do it!

We'll see how stimulus control goes. I think it will be fun to try.

JESS and LOLA- thanks for commenting! As for tricks... I haven't really planned them out yet. I'm going to work on bow and crawl- I've played with those both before, but never got them on cue. I'll probably do beg/sit pretty, and wave. Spin in both directions. I would love roll over, but I've been working on that one for three years...

Kirby @ Dog.Nerd.101 said...

Love these goals, I might have to borrow! As a school psychologist, I am all about data driven training and progress monitoring! How has Maizy been doing since you started the medication? Sounds like things have been going well!

Crystal said...

Maisy's been doing FABULOUS on medication. And thanks for the reminder- I need to do another set of behavior logs this week.

I'm pretty excited to try the data driven training thing. The hardest part is figuring out a system that works for me, but I've got a few ideas to experiment with.

Anne said...

Great goals! Just want you to know that your blog has had a very positive impact on me. I have been feeling blah and unmotivated about obedience training (guess snowshoeing in the woods with the dogs just seems like waaay more fun), and your blog got me to thinking that training IS fun and I got curious about shaping and tonight Cheddar and I start an obedience class where they teach through shaping. I'm very excited! Thanks Crystal for the inspiring blog! Hope 2011 is fantastic for you!

Crystal said...

Anne, I'll tell you a secret: sometimes I think hiking is the funnest thing I do with Maisy. However- yay! I do love shaping. Where are you taking the class??

Tegan said...

A great list - good luck for the year coming up.

As for "normal people just can't appreciate a good front" - ain't it true! My favourite trick for my dog is her heeling - can't you see her hind end awareness? Her attention?
Alas, my boy's trick of hiding is face under his paw is a much greater crowd pleaser.

Crystal said...

Hahahaha, yeah, I totally hear you Tegan. I once watched a demo at the State Fair and was in awe by a dog's finish- he pivoted into place- but the rest of the crowd was oohing and aahing over the jumps and such.