What’s fun for you? Personalizing your training session

September 10, 2013 at 2:44 am 1 comment

Have you ever had a skill that you knew you needed to train, but just couldn’t seem to get excited about doing it?

If you’re anything like me, you’d write it down then when it actually comes time to train, either put it off altogether or end up frustrated within 30 seconds of training!

So what’s makes the difference between skills we love to train and those we dread?

This came into my mind recently after reading one of Silvia Trkman’s blog posts and decided that I should teach more tricks to my dogs. I grabbed my clicker and some treats and decided on the behaviours I was going to teach. The shaping session became frustrating very quickly and it got me thinking about the difference between my good training sessions and bad ones.

To balance it out (since I felt sorry for my dogs having to deal with my frustrations) I went back to luring some basic behaviours instead. Surprisingly, my mood got better and I was back to having fun again!

So what was the difference?

The conclusion that I came to is that fun training sessions for me have a few common characteristics:
– Motion: I have to be moving. I get bored fast when I’m staying still. I have the most fun when I’m moving with my dogs…even if it’s just my hands
– Quick Progress: I don’t seem to have much patience if my dog seems confused or makes repetitive mistakes. I prefer to build on small successes to keep us both happy.

Does this mean I don’t do any shaping? Of course not! I just realize now that I need to be moving while I’m doing it or I get bored and my dogs get frustrated. It’s in this way that a very small change in HOW I train my skills altered my mood regarding the actual training.

Realizing what makes training fun for me as an individual has inspired me to tweak my training sessions to focus on these areas.

This has become especially important while I’m re-training my dogwalk with my border collie Heist from a run to a stopped contact.

Why is this a challenge?

I’ll share a secret with you… in general I find stopped contacts very boring to teach. Yeah I know all the information to make a brilliant stopped contact, but I’ve always found the training process too methodical to be really exciting for me. I don’t head out to the agility field excited about training it. It’s been more like a chore that I have to do because I know the consequences if I don’t train it.

After recognizing what exactly it is that I find enjoyable about training, however, I decided to modify the information I know about teaching stopped contacts to something that I actually find exciting.

Step one? Add more motion! I decided to teach him to jump into a 2 on2 off position using a short, sturdy box. This was much more fun for us both since it didn’t give him a chance to get “sticky” and creep into position. Plus I wasn’t limited to standing still.

Since this game was a lot more fun for me than the slow progressions I had done in the past, I saw it as being more successful much quicker. This has made me feel more successful and now I’m excited about my contact training!

Take a moment to think of what sessions give you the most enjoyment. What qualities do they have?

Now think of some skills that you hesitate to train or do not feel that you are good at. What are the major differences between the skills you enjoy training and those you don’t?

It’s no secret that in order to get better at something you have to practice. The problem is, if we are practicing and it reaffirms our belief that it’s not fun or that we aren’t good at it, there is actually more harm done that good! Think about it, the skills that you are best at are the ones you like to practice!

So here’s my test for you.

Challenge yourself to use your new knowledge of what you enjoy training and apply it to a skill that you’ve been putting off.

Be honest with yourself and try not to think of how it “should” be done. Remember, the point of this exercise isn’t to do it perfectly…it’s to be creative finding fun ways to train a skill you’re usually less than excited about.

I’d love to hear your comments on what makes training fun for you as an individual, so if you get a few moments please feel free to share your own experiences!

Happy Training,
Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Angie  |  September 10, 2013 at 4:56 am

    I discovered with shaping that my first session usually is a disaster, then my next gets better…then the next session a day later the dog seems to be reading my mind !


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