You’re standing there with your pet in front of you, bridge (clicker or other) at the ready, and a pouch full of tasty treats. You’re shaping your pet along the path towards a fun new trick or useful behaviour. You get a great response! It’s such an exciting, and sometimes even adrenaline pumping, experience. So then you ask for just one more repetition…..
Can anyone else relate to this common training mishap? If you’ve been there before you probably know that the next response is hardly ever as awesome as the one before, and then you’re chasing an ok response to end the session on a good note. It’s one of those situations that is easy to look at critically in hindsight.
So what can you do to keep training sessions short and snappy, so that you’re leaving your pet on a high note rather than scrabbling for a so-so one?
You could set a timer, when it dings you stop. If you’ve worked with your pet before, then you’ll be able to pick a time that you know your pet can focus for the full duration. If you have any doubts, set the time really short. Just enough for a few repetitions.
I’m often suggesting people keep some treats handy so they can have a speedy training session in the ad breaks of their favourite tv shows. This will limit each session to 1-2 minutes, and will mean both trainer and pet can stay focused.
Another option is to train for just a set number of treats. You might get 5 pieces of hot dogs, and when you run out that is the end of that session. If you physically run out of rewards, then you will make yourself stop, rather than trying for one more sneaky rep.
Most importantly, go into every session with a clear picture of what you are trying to teach. Know the steps you will take to get there, not just this session but all the way to completion. That way, if your pet jumps 10 steps ahead, you can keep training seamlessly. Also think how you can break each step down further, so that if your pet gets stuck you can make it easier to succeed.
Training should be fun for both you and your pet! By keeping sessions nice and quick you are ensuring that you are both bringing your full attention to the game, and ending before the game gets old. There’s no reason to drill your pet through his training. Train smart, not tough!