I've got a busy brain. Like, really busy. I am constantly seeking the most effective ways to help my clients train their pups and develop a great relationship and sense of teamwork. I read. I talk to other trainers. I try stuff out in my classes. I take webinars, online courses and attend seminars and workshops. I love that dog training is in a constant state of evolution. Dogs are even on the radar in the scientific community right now and it's freaking awesome.
I have ideas that pop up continually yet I never quite put them out there. I don't name them. Claim them. Promote them as my own. So, here goes nothin'! These are four ideas of mine that I think are pretty awesome and I'm claiming them as work product. I hope trainers and students will use the heck out of them, and maybe remember that they're "Amanda Boyd" terms. One can dream...
#1: The marker word (to be used as an alternative to the clicker) should not be "yes." It should be "click!" I mean, duh! I don't know about other trainers, but I find it darn near impossible to get people to consistently use "yes" and understand the equivalence to the clicker. I've been beating my head against the wall for years on this one. I now hereby declare my verbal marker word for students to be "click!" It's consistent, easy and makes sense in a very obvious way. BOOM!
#2: The word for coming when called should not be "come." Or "here." Or whatever. It should be "treat." I mean, what the heck is a recall word? Well, it's a word that you say that causes your dog to stop in his tracks, turn and run to you as quickly as s/he can (hopefully in exchange for something good from the human). Guess what, people already have that word and it's "TREAT!" So, why not build on that? It's been conditioned. It's most likely 80% or more reliable. In my experience, very few students actually practice and effectively condition and protect "come" or "here" as recall words. How about "treat" for recall (and ya better give 'em that treat!) and "touch" (nose to hand target) for an emergency recall? Done, and hereby declared and stamped with a big ol' "AB was here."
#3: The word for dropping something should not be "drop" or "give." It should be "out." Why? Because I tend to say "ow!" when my dogs grab on to me and it hurts. Not the high pitch puppy yelp that gets them all wound up, but just a short, low pitch and offended "ow!" So, they learn to let go when they hear that noise. Then it's easy peasy to transfer it to dropping an object without having to teach a new word that means something they already know.
#4) Okay, we're moving away from words now and into other territory: mat training! This might not be unique to me, but I swear I haven't borrowed it from anyone intentionally. I've never seen it done and I just thought it up about a week ago. Most classes include some sort of mat training. Many of us introduce shaping to help with this. Trainers love shaping, but we all know how hard it is for students. They almost always revert to a lure. Which is fine: give them the option to shape, but don't be surprised if luring takes over. Often we suggest the students lure and cue a down on the mat quicklyl a few times, then step back and see if shaping works. But if we want the dog to quickly go to the mat without luring we can use...wait for it...opposition reflex! Bait the darn mat (yes, it's a prompt), hold the dog's collar (or put your palm on their chest), then release to race to the mat and eat. Basically a restrained recall using a mat as the target instead of the handler. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then go back to shaping and see what happens.
I gave it a try with this pup for her first mat session.
Okay, so not perfect but it has potential! I didn't notice that pesky little crumb of freeze dried liver working against me. Video is such a valuable tool! But I at least got a couple of reps and, lo and behold, I even snuck in my new "click!" verbal marker.
What say y'all? Are you pickin' up what I'm throwin' down? Anyone else already doing this stuff? I'd love to hear your comments!
Sidekick. Train happy!