I know I’ve said it before, “It’s all in the time and effort you put into the training” and as much as I do believe it… there’s something that has to be said about how we do our training. I’m not just talking about the training philosophy one has, though I do think it plays a roll, but the physical mechanics involved.
I have students right now who have a lovely herding mix dog. Last week the human handlers were struggling with loose leash walking and with keeping their pup engaged. The humans were definitely frustrated because they were doing work but not getting what they wanted out of it. One of the things I noticed was that their mechanics could be improved–mostly their placement of the reinforcement.
I was pretty direct with them and reminded them the improvements whenever I noticed them going back to the less than great mechanics and reinforced them for proper mechanics when I noticed them. By the end of the class they were clearly a bit overwhelmed and frustrated on focusing on the mechanics.
When they came to class this week, I was more than impressed with the changes they were making! They were doing an amazing job with the mechanics and the placement of the reinforcement was really precise and they’d clearly done lots of work on it. The difference in the loose leash walking was amazing… with the better mechanics, the dog had made huge improvements. It really wasn’t just the amount of work but the quality of mechanics that was making/breaking the effectiveness of the training.
Using mirrors or video taping your training sessions can be so vital in making sure you maintain proper mechanics. I think of it like a new math concept or dance move–if you practice it a lot but are practicing it incorrectly, it’s not going to improve. If you are training without proper mechanics you can very easily plateau or make no improvements at all. It’s one of the reasons I still like to take classes with the pups… I can always benefit from someone critiquing my mechanics and alerting me to things that could become a problem later or things that are causing miscommunications between me and my pup.
So, take a minute and think about the mechanics you are using. Is there a behavior that’s causing you some troubles… what are your mechanics… can you film a session and see what you could be improving?