Here’s a great video from Ted-Ed on how to get better at pretty much anything. You can apply this suggestions to your animal training and you should see faster improvement. A few key points that I think are especially important when you’re adding an animal into the mix:
- Break it up! The video talks about how professional athletes and musicians often practice skill sets throughout the day. The same should be true for training sessions with your dog. Most effective training only works on a new skill for less than 5 minutes, and often 1-2 minutes is even better! So do one session in the morning, another before you leave for work, and another in the evening. Or work on a particular game for 5 minutes, then switch it up and play a new one!
- Set yourself up for success. Make sure you and your pet are practicing the behaviors you want to see 80% more than the ones you don’t want to see. If you find yourself often frustrated with your pets behavior, it means they are practicing it a lot! And that’s strengthening those neural pathways in their brains. Try to modify conditions or the environment to reduce the amount of times your pup does things you don’t enjoy. One example would be going on a hike on leash so they aren’t chasing other animals. You can then up the amount of repetitions of positive behavior by practicing self control and rewarding it around animals while on leash at a distance.
- Repetition is crucial! If you aren’t getting a high rate of reinforced behavior when working on a new task, think of ways to make the game easier. You want to be rewarding eight or nine of every ten trials, but you can get tens of trials into most training sessions if you’ve set things up for success.
- Reduce distractions. This is true for both you and your pet. Often, people have a hard time with dog training because they raise distractions too fast, before the dog even understands the behavior. Or, they spend their training time checking their phone. If you’re not having success, try to reduce these distractions and then introduce them back in slowly once the behavior is reliable, meaning happening on one cue 95% of the time. Remember, some distractions are harder than others. If you just can’t ignore your kid, try locking them in the dungeon (Just kidding!), or if your dog just has to say hi to other dogs, try working around on leash dogs at a distance they can focus on you.
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