31 July 2008

Don't worry

I've taken some time to think through what happens when Drifter sets me off, and I think what it is, is that he has a brain-fart, for whatever reason, on something that I know he is completely capable of performing flawlessly. And then I get mad that he didn't perform as I had expected. Then he gets upset that I'm mad and the cycle continues. What probably needs to happen is that if he doesn't get it on the 2nd try, I put him away and try again later. Or immediately back-chain the behavior in learning mode rather than punishing mode.

On punishments and corrections: I am not a purely positive trainer. I am not mentally capable of being a person like that. I use about 90% positive methods when training new behaviors, and I very much do encourage the dogs to think things through operantly, however once they know a behavior I certainly do correct them for performing sloppily. Now a correction varies per dog. Drifter is very smart, very operant. . . . but also a hard-headed guy who needs a bit of a heavier hand or he just doesn't care so very much that he used a see-saw as a diving board. Typical correction for him is a harsh "lie down" command, and either carrying or heeling off the course. If not being carried, then i will usually lean over him and loom a bit to get my point across.
Kiba is a soft little marshmallow when training, and if I even *sigh* the wrong way when she gets something wrong she will quit and run back to the door looking like I have seriously just beaten her. She also has a propensity to duck if I swing a toy around, even though I don't hit her with it. So her corrections are more like soft "Kiba" or "hey" that just tells her she did it wrong. Then we try again and have a party. Seri is more like Drifter than Kiba, but is a touch softer than Drifter is, so she gets a "Seri!", maybe time-out "lie down" and a slight glare, then tries again.

Part of Drifter's hard-headedness is my fault. My first border collie, Freeze, was very very soft, very very smart, and just basically very very difficult. If I corrected her, she fell apart. If I didnt' correct her, she continued doing it wrong. What a choice! So I think I was too lenient with Drifter for the first couple years I trained him. Too positive, not enough negative. He is also very good at "lying" about whether he's upset - he will crouch a bit and hang his head, but the instant you start turning your head away he pops right back up and is ready to go. He acts sad because he knows that gets me off his case. Little bastard :-D

Anyways, most days that I go out and train, I work on tough handling, contacts/weaves and such. It is very rare for Drifter to knock bars. It is very rare for me to get upset, although it happens now and then. Most times I can work him through whatever mental block, he figures out what I want, and he nails it from then on. He really is very bright, and I think itself is a reason I get mad when he gets "thick" at class. I expect him to think right away and change, but he is just so charged up, and frustrated (he probably felt the same way I did) that it didn't happen.

Many times I go several weeks without more than a "hey" given to any of my dogs as a correction. And "hey" and trying again is hardly horrible. So don't worry, I'm not really a big nasty trainer who throws things or dogs or uses a 2-by-4 to correct them. They wouldn't run as fast as they do, if I did that. Seriously. Kiba would up and leave me altogether if I did that!

AKC trial, indoors, in Maryland this weekend. Hoping to get another double Q on somebody!


ALS said...

"And then I get mad that he didn't perform as I had expected. Then he gets upset that I'm mad and the cycle continues. "

I am really happy to read this on your blog. The way I figure it is this. I ask myself, "who has the bigger brain." The answer is the human and so I figure I carry the greater burden responsibility when there is a break down in performance. And I have to find a way to fix it, whether it be to put the dog up or going into training mode or just shrug it off and try again.

I like your blog. It's fun. Especially the dead cat head.

Rosanne said...

I'll work it out. It's just class where he does stuff like that. I am not bringing him to class anymore, it just doesn't do us any good. He was great at run-through's at Click Above so I'm not sure what it is about class that makes him lose his mind. He was always fine at the classes that I taught too. Weird.