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Training Session Goals for Humans

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Demonstrating Keeping a Loose Leash

Dog training sessions involve a complex combination of verbal cues, hand signals, markers, delivery of rewards, body language, timing, observation, feedback, dexterity and probably much more.  I have been training dogs for many years and still, sometimes my timing is off, sometimes I give incorrect verbal cues, and occasionally I drop treats on the floor.  When students are taking a basic obedience course for the first time, working all of the skills required in training all at the same time can be overwhelming.

New students should not be discouraged if dog training doesn’t come easily at first.  Learning to train and handle a dog is alot like learning a new sport or activity.  Anyone that has ever taken their first golf lesson as an adult knows that many elements have to come together to successfully swing a club at a ball on a tee and get the ball to a target.  Think of all the skills that a student has to learn: grip, staying relaxed, stance, backswing,  down swing, and follow through.  In addition, each one of these skills has multiple elements.  The trick to improving dog training skills (and improving skills at sports) is to concentrate on one element at a time until it becomes fluid.  Then student can move on to another element until it becomes fluid.

Most dog trainers coach their students to train their dogs.  I’ll observe a student working a behavior with her dog and have suggestions for areas to improve and give positive reiforcement for what she is doing well.  For example, while working sit for the first time with a student, I may suggest changes in the student’s position to the dog (too close or too far), making sure she uses a marker (clicker or verbal), and making sure the student released the dog.  There are probably many elements where I could suggest improvement, but it’s unlikely a student will remember more than three suggestions.  Rather than trying to remember all of these suggestions at the same time, when the student practices training sessions at home with the dog, she should concentrate on one element at a time until it becomes fluid and she doesn’t have to think about it anymore.  For example, the student should set a goal for a training session to remember give her dog space and not crouch over the dog while working sit.  She should continue working that skill each session until positioning comes naturally and she does not have to specifically think about it.  Then she could move on to markers.  Her goal for her next training session could be to remember to say yes every time after her dog successfully performs a cued behavior.

Working on a specific goal during each training session allows students to take complex skills and break them down into manageable goals.  Hang in there!  Dog training does get easier!


Written by dawnhanna

April 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Dog Training

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