But preferring it doesn't make it so. It actually takes work to become organized. I'm a better trainer when I'm organized. When I have a plan. When I can measure my progress. When I know what to work on during each session.
So I took a little time last night to write down my goals for each of my dogs. Talos is easy: his goals are given to me by Service Dogs of Virginia. Here they are:
Handling - Paws and nails (clipping and grinding with Dremel)
Loose Leash Walking
Back – Away from me and with me
Name Game – look at me when I say his name
Go to Mat
Go In – go under a table, into an aisle, etc.
There will be more things on this list for sure, but for now, I need to focus. It's easy to get a few behaviors that look good, but then never actually finish them. Basically, you wind up with a whole lot of nothing useful when you don't train a behavior from beginning all the way to the end. What's "The End," you ask?
In a nutshell, The End is when the behavior happens when you ask for it and only when you ask for it, and the dog can do it anywhere, for any lenth of time, and no matter what's going on around him.
That's a lot to ask for!
After I wrote each of the behaviors, I then broke each of those behaviors down into small, manageable steps. I'll work on one step at a time, recording my progress at each training session so I can make adjustments to the training plan if necessary.
If you have a dog at home that could use some new, better behaviors, you can get organized, too! Just write down what you want your dog to learn. For instance, if your dog jumps on visitors, you want your dog to sit when visitors come in. That's an achievable goal. Start with just sitting – no visitors. Can your dog sit when you ask (And when you ask only once)? If the answer is yes, you're ready to add small distractions. If your dog can't sit with only one request, you won't move to the next step until you've taught your dog to sit with one request.
Add distractions by simply moving around. Wave your hand as you say "Sit." If your dog sits, click and treat. If he can't sit while you wave your hand, try just wiggling your fingers instead. If he can sit while you wiggle your fingers, click and treat. If not, can he sit if your hand is open, but no fingers are wiggling? Your dog gets to set the pace here, not you! You can only move forward as quickly as your dog is learning.
I'll have some video up soon of this very step – adding distractions. Nemo's not very reliable if there are distractions around, so it's my job to help him. I've written a training plan and started working on it today. I'll share my progress shortly.
What are you waiting for? Make a plan, then get to work. You can follow along with me and my dogs here. Now that I have a plan, I'll be working with my dogs on a regular schedule. Come join us! Your dog will love the experience of learning something new and of working with you!