Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Patience, Persistence and Positive Training

Positive, force free, clicker, modern, whatever you want to call it, training is incredibly rewarding. 
It is, sadly, not always absolutely intuitive nor is it always quick. Trying to figure out how to solve issues without using force or compulsion can be frustrating for people who aren't used to breaking down behaviours into little bits and taking their time. When an issue is affecting other people it can become very tempting to go for the fast fix. 

(Barking and jumping are two types of behaviour that leap to my mind that can provoke a decided lack of positive good will - others may occur to you)
I got an email question today about an issue, a good question and there was no indication that the folks who posed it had considered any "traditional" ways to solve the problem of barking during meal prep but they had legitimate concerns about the neighbours. It was a  Great question and something I deal with regularly - having a minimum of four dog meals to prepare at each meal time (and some slightly "on" dogs)

For me, with multiple dogs, sending each dog to it's place and having him or her wait (depending on dog in a sit, down or self chosen position) seems to work best. Brody is, of course, allowed to stand optimistically at my feet. In nearly 11 years of living with us he has never barked for a meal. Thea,at the wise old age of 8, knows the deal - she waits patiently on the couch. Sampson wants to be good. He so desperately wants to be good. But he can get a little squirrely at meal prep time. He is sent to the porch at the school house. And he sits. And waits. When he breaks his sit I resend him to the porch. When I am in good trainer mode he rarely breaks his sit as I reward him quite frequently (usually with a little bit of kibble, sometimes with something high value, sometimes with a pat or verbal praise). Sally is sometimes sent to the bathroom and she stretches and stretches in an effort to see around the corner. When her feet fall off the ledge she quickly snatches them up in an effort to not get caught breaking her position. It is actually much easier for her when she gets sent to a mat or chair to wait. She simply sigh, lies down and waits. I suppose if I always did exactly the same thing she would be resigned about whatever we did. I, of course, being an educator by profession not just avocation, always have to push the limits!

I could spend meal time prep time yelling No or physically grabbing dog's faces but that doesn't sound like much fun to me nor would any of us learn from that. I LIKE sharing the responsibility for behaviour with the dogs. They make good choices they get a reward. They make poor choices nothing interesting happens. Sometimes when I'm in a rush I wish I simply managed the behaviour - shutting each dog in a crate would be one pretty easy way to manage it - and I have used that lots with foster dogs or back when Sampson was still all about the resources! Management is a very important step sometimes - it can buy you the patience and time you need to tackle a question from within a positive framework.

It isn't always easy being positive. Two dogs screaming for you to throw the stick requires some focus to ignore. One dog pitching a fit because she thinks it's dinner time and your neighbours are asleep is disconcerting.
Figuring out how to set yourselves up for success actually becomes fun. Capturing the behaviour you want is a challenge. Having your dogs quietly watch you as you prepare a meal, pick up a stick, or wait on a start line is so rewarding!


Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck said...

It's hard to remain in a positive training mindset, but I think the results can be longer lasting. You're not just punishing a behavior but teaching the dogs what you want the to do instead and building a newer, stronger, behavior.

andrea said...

yup I agree Laura - the behaviour is offered with joy usually :)