Thoughts about training…

I had a great training session with Stephanie Kessel yesterday morning. So what constitutes a great training session? I believe a short, goal oriented session, one in which my dog is successful with the goal I set out and/or a session that gives me valuable information about something my dog is confused about or needs additional training. Our sessions this morning with Annie and Pizzazz accomplished both goals with both dogs.

Stephanie was working pushes to the back of the jump. This particular skill went really well and we saw how Annie picks up quickly on Stephanie’s cues. We gave her a break and then worked on obstacle discrimination a skill I believe is crucial for running a fast moving border collie. It was here that Annie had some problems and gave us a way to focus on our next sessions. It was important for Annie to take the obstacle when Stephanie was facing it and Annie could do that. However, there will be times Stephanie has to support Annie at an obstacle and run to another one. Annie needs to learn to stay committed to that obstacle as her handlers feet move in another direction. Gathering that information allows us to train Annie to a higher level.

Now I come to Pizzazz. Pizzazz’s session was primarily directed at weave poles. Because of my stenosis and balance problems I’m unable to teach him using the 2 x 2 method. I also need help when I bring out the weaves. In this morning session we raised the bar for Pizzazz. The WAM teaches the dog to single track through the polls. From the very beginning Pizzazz was showing a propensity for this. Today we move the poles closer to being upright. Pizzazz began to drive through the poles for reinforcement down the reinforcement line. It’s so exciting for me to see this dog learn. It is also important that I see what he can do and what he can’t do. The can do’s are really reinforcing to the handler, such as the weave poles. The can’t do’s are more valuable because they set the stage for another training session. Today I learned I now have to teach my dog to weave with me in different positions. I will start that in our next session.

Many people see the error on the part of the dog as the DOG doing something wrong. I see the error on the part of the dog as something that I have failed to help him understand and something he is confused about. Looking for that information and recognizing it, plus knowing my final goal allows me to plan for and progress the learning of my dog as well as those of my friends and students. We learn from our mistakes; not our successes.

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