Criteria? What criteria?
Photo by Robin Sallie.
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.