Monday, February 1, 2016

Confession Time: My Training Blunders

Hey, everyone!

It's time again for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian NomadsTenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days! This month's theme is "Training Confessions", but as always, you can share any positive based host you choose.

Despite being quite experienced in dogs and animals in general (my parents show and breed Mastiffs, and I grew up on variously sized farms), Nola is my first dog. Training was the first thing I started looking into before getting her, and I remember being completely fascinated when I discovered positive reinforcement. The whole "Dog Whisperer" craze had never meshed with what I envisioned my relationship with my dog to be, and I was thrilled to find out there was another way. 

I am very proud to say that Nola has been trained with positive reinforcement and negative punishment exclusively, from 8 weeks old on out. Don't take that to mean I'm a perfect trainer, though, because hell knows I am not! Thankfully, I was blessed with a first time dog that is incredibly patient, forgiving, and resilient to my frequent fumbles. Here are my four biggest blunders with training!

*click* Yes! No - I mean, not no, but not yes. Fuck, I just meant to click. Here, have a treat. 

Y'all have probably seen me to this in most of our training videos, and no matter how much I try to stop myself, I always do it. I use marker training, and I'm almost always saying "yes!" along with clicking when I use a clicker. Not a damaging habit at all (hey, it's doubly reinforcing my marker word ;)), but it bugs me!

So forgiving, I swear. 

I'm inconstant with cues.

I'm consistent where it counts (come, off, ect), but everything else? Probably has at least two cue words.
Up could be: Up, jump up, come on up, hup hup, paws up.
Watch me could be: watch me, look here, Nola Bugs
Heeling could be: heel, with me, this way, focus, let's go

This could be cued with "pretty" or "sit pretty". 

I'm horrible with fading hand signals.

Truly horrible. Nola knows more tricks and cues by visual rather than auditory signal. Again, it's not something I mind too much - I'll admit to sometimes pretending I'm some kind of snazzy spy with my  silence and fancy hand signals -, but I have no talent for fading them out. 
I'm sure how training sessions look like a very spastic version of sign language, which it kind of is. 

I get frustrated, and I have specific needs in a dog.

Pike, for example, is a dog I don't train to the extent I train Nola. He is incredibly, incredibly soft (to him, a clicker is adverse. So is anything louder than a very soft/high tone. Or certain handle signals.), and has some mild anxiety issues.  He's very easy to to put over threshold, and it's often not a consistent thing that will put him over it. One day he may be fine with it, the next it could be his trigger to shut down. If I accidentally raise my voice, move my hand near him suddenly, or anything else along those lines, he has serious difficulty recovering from it. He's easily stressed and has trouble adapting, and is just an asshole to other dogs.
To balance that out though, he's incredibly sweet and gentle. 

Working with him frustrates me beyond belief, especially the lack of consistency. No, I don't expect him to be a robot, but when I don't have the slightest idea of what this training session may bring, it's difficult to have a backup plan, or even just a general idea of how to do things. 
As such, he knows the very basics and a few tricks he's taught himself (he's a smart dog, just difficult for me to understand and work), and I've rewarded. We mostly just play together, which makes him happy and confident, and me relaxed. He's happiest with play, and the little bit of training I do with him to keep his mind active now revolves around play.

It took me a long, long time to accept that I am not a talented enough trainer to work effectively with his quirks, combined with I am just not that patient. 
It took me even longer to admit to myself that I am not the kind of person that can work with a less than solid nerved dog. I still feel bad about it, and I love him for him, even though I don't always like him. It's been a learning experience, for sure, and one I am grateful for. I've learned almost as much from Pike as I have from Nola. Perhaps that will be its own post in the future.

He's a freak, but he can be really fun, too. 

So there you have it! Those are my biggest training blunders. What are yours?

- Dachshund Mommy


  1. Lol. Um maybe not training? No we do a pretty good job but we have pugs. Do you know how stubborn they are? I say Maddie come here! She walks the other way. Le sigh.

  2. I do all of these, too! I completely understand your frustration with Pike. I am lucky that Boca is such an easy dog, because I really don't enjoy trick training with her. She is way too food-motivated and just turns into a treat monster, jumping and waving her paws around with no focus whatsoever. That's why she knows about five commands while Ruby is working toward fifty!

  3. It must be incredibly difficult training a dog to the standard you have and not surprising you get mixed up now and then.
    I have seen Chis that know a variety of commands, unfortunately due to my laziness, mine aren't.
    Lynne x

  4. Ethel was rather difficult to train. Just like Pike, she's a little mad! But we love her to pieces!

  5. Mom said she is shipping me to you cause I'm stubborn
    Edward (& Lily)

  6. OH man, i'm just like you!!
    I do however like to both click and say "yes" to reinforce the word for when we aren't using a clicker.
    I need to work on distance, Dante for some reason insists on sitting right in front of me before doing anything else. LoL

  7. Great post! I'm guilty of the extra cues, too! I'm currently trying to clean that up. I find that making a list really helps with it. I've also been known to forget what I've named a behavior so again a list is great. I'm also guilty of not finishing all their tricks. I'll start a trick and then get bored and move on to something else without making sure I've finished the previous ones. I'm trying to work on that, too. :D

  8. I probably shouldn't love this post and confessions theme as much as I do, but it is reassuring to know I am not alone! The training journal (that I started last year) has been a huge help on multiple cues as well as starting a behavior and not finishing it (like Lauren mentioned.) Training journals have been recommended to me in so many classes but in particular Freestyle folks are very keen on journals because they use SO many cues and signals.

    Huxley also just prefers to play. He is, thankfully, not as anxiety ridden as Pike (and you are awesome for him! I would have a really hard time with that too!) It took me what feels like forever to figure out how to get through to Huxley but it has been a fun training challenge to come up with game ways to teach essentials like recall- which was horrifying with him for so long!

    Thanks for joining the hop!

  9. Mr. N is also a super soft dog but that works with my training style mostly! I think I'd have a harder time working with a "hard" dog.

  10. I think this is so good to know because we do the best we can and I always think it is amazing Cocoa Bean is as good as she is since I am not as consistent as I need to be!!

  11. I'm with you on most of these. I think I often use the same hand signals for different cues. Yet, they still do (mostly) what I want/need them to do. Forgiving little things, aren't they?

  12. Nala is really soft, too. I've put so much work into helping her become more confident and a little pushier and more resilient--but yeah, it's rough. She doesn't seem as extreme as Pike, though.

    And oh boy yes with the multiple markers and mixing my words up. I'm trying to clean up my act but it's so hard! We're working on being still, but as I move to reward her, I keep saying, "ready?" Which is the word I say before doing opposition reflex, which makes her get all wiggly and excited! Agh!


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