Now I don’t know about you but I’m all for having ‘kit’ whether it be cooking gadgets, stationary (don’t get me started…hubby has banned me from going to Staples!), all the latest gear for my pony, the most efficient layers/thermal skins for the cold weather… and this applies to when I train my own dogs too… I found myself ordering an egg timer on ebay the other day.. an egg timer? Really?
Not just any egg timer… a digital egg timer with a clip and a magnet on the back! (ooooh, fancy!)
Because I am guilty of ‘over cooking’ my own dogs…not literally of course! What I mean is when I do training sessions with my own dogs I get carried away…especially when we are in that great zone together and were cooking on gas making progress on a new trick or improving an old behaviour….I keep the session going on for too long and fry their brains a little…not on purpose of course, its just so easy to carry on working on something when its going well, when I know if I stopped myself and stopped the session there on that high we would be cooking on gas from the get go in the next session. This is the purpose of the egg timer. Studies show that training session for up to 3 minutes are the most effective with dogs (and most other animals for that matter)…little and often. Since Ripple my puppy has joined us I have been filming our training sessions (which will become the Super Pup online training video series) and when I have watched them back it has really hit home that what I thought were little training sessions ‘playing around with my puppy’ were sometimes 10-15minutes long! Over the past few weeks I have been more mindful of time, but still finding myself ‘just doing a bit more’ or ‘just 3 more repetitions’ and wham…5minutes has flown by. By just shortening the sessions, albeit not enough yet but I am seeing results faster, by doing less training! From now on the Egg timer will be set to 3 minutes every time. I have also found myself more eager to train recently..ie more sessions…because there is only so much you can do in 3 minutes, and I find myself being stricter with what the aim of the session is, having a plan. Now of course with Clients dogs I’m almost sticking to a curriculum (based on the clients needs and time I have with them), and together we have great success..because I arrive with a plan and stick to it! Ripple has a long life of training and competing and just ‘doing’ ahead of her so I am training many different skills…..what I was missing was a plan (and an egg timer!) Yes I could have used my timer on my mobile phone, but I'm often using it to film or it may be on charge in another room etc. My point is if spending a few quid on ebay is what gives you the momentum to move forward so what?! And if you don’t have a plan, you plan to fail! Having a plan also means the right rewards ready, and the right kit (lead if needed, distraction, could be anything) as well as a list (even if its mentally) of things you plan to work on.
Food for thought eh?
Short, regular bursts of training are best. Train with a plan, make it fun and have the right kit to hand. Training not only improves your dogs behaviour but improves that bond between you and them making them more likely to respond to your requests in day to day life.
You can teach an old dog new tricks!
Patience, practice and the right rewards for your dog are key.