“Perform action without regards for the fruits of action”
I heard the above recently on a meditation experience download (it is apparently from the Bhagavad Gita or at least similar words are) and it really struck a cord with me in regards to dog training.
I had to train my dog to do a new behaviour recently, I got the request on Friday and wasnt home until around 930pm and I needed to get footage over of the behaviour by the next day. So basically precious little time to train it and it was a chain rather than just one behaviour…. just to complicate things.
So, I could have commenced training really hung up on desperately needing this certain outcome, “the fruits of action” but this never gets you anywhere in dog training and its a lesson I have apparently learnt without realising it.
I needed to teach Faith to rest her chin on the floor, then lift it, then rest it again on the floor all in a relaxed manner. This could have stressed me right out as its quite a big ask to teach overnight all whilst juggling some other things I have going on right now but I didn’t, because that would have ruined any hope of getting anything. Whatever I teach my dogs is supposed to be fun for them, working with a stressed out owner just isnt fun! Often the best thing we can do to assist our dogs is remember that and work on ourselves and our own energy that we bring to the ‘training table’ when we work.
So I began teaching the chin down on command first, I got lucky as Faith offered it and I captured it with my clicker (I always tend to use clicker when teaching new behaviours as its so efficient and clear a method for teaching), this means I cut out a whole heap of time spent trying to shape the behaviour…woohooo!
During our training session we experienced the following:
- Dips in Faiths confidence that she had understood that ‘chin’ meant lay chin on floor – this was when I tried to move on too quickly to asking her to lift her chin which meant witholding the reward at ‘chin’ to enable me to give it at ‘lift’. Witholding meant she thought she had got the behaviour wrong, this is because its a new behaviour so she wasnt convinced she had it 100% right. – It is easy to rush teaching and cause this but also easy to fix by simply stepping back a stage for a while. In this case this was a moment when ‘the fruits of action’ snuck into my mind, so easy to stray from the path but I got back on it quickly!
- Frustrating bark &/or whine – Faith is quick to get frustrated although over time we have worked hard on this and its improving all the time. Dealing with this means I have to choose carefully what I reward and time things impeccably to prevent rewarding noise from Faith and also to further reinforce that silence is rewarded well.
- Throwing other behaviours in the mix – often happens when learning something new but can also mean its time for a break as learning new behaviours is quite intense for dogs. At this point I get one something good then reward and praise and take a break for a while.
- Offering half behaviours – Sometimes a sign of frustration / needing a break but sometimes as I find definitely with Faith its about testing the water, what will I and wont I accept, what will or wont be enough to earn the reward, what exactly am I looking for. This means when teaching a new behaviour I have to be careful, sometimes when first teaching I have to accept less than I desire to bring along the behaviour and build it either in duration or in perfection of execution i.e. accept chin not quite on floor but just a head dip. But… at some point I have to recognise she understands the request ‘chin’ and if I then accept a head dip rather than a chin on floor I am feeding back to her that less than perfect is acceptable which doesnt help her or me, it creates confusion where she needs clarity to understand.
There are many other variables that occur within teaching any new behaviour but the above are some good examples. Now imagine trying to deal with all the above, and more, whilst constantly worrying about the outcome!
Approach all training with that end goal in mind so that you can shape the session in the right way but never ever cling to it and push for it, be open minded and open hearted and work with your dog in a way that ensures it has the best time learning. Minimise frustration, take plenty of breaks, reward heavily when correct and be quiet when wrong, allow them to take the time to figure things out for themselves and complete their learning path without pressure.