Since the first days of training Knightley, he hasn't been particularly switched on by training sessions. I have already talked on here at some length about the difficultly in finding a treat that Knightley could really like and now I look back upon my techniques, in a way I used that difficulty as an excuse for his slight passiveness - and didn't really try to change anything about the way I was actually doing the training sessions.
In a way, I don't blame myself much. Those first couple of weeks with Knightley were very exhausting, and I don't think I could have mustered up the extra energy for the approach I am using now. I had been thinking a lot about Knightley and I, and made a post on the yahoo list for those who are following Sue Ailsby's Training Levels. It helped further challenge my expectations of myself, of Knightley and also after some thought, gave me some ideas for changing our training sessions in order to get him "in the game".
These are the major changes I've put in place:
- I now stop sessions while he is wanting more (before I sometimes continued until he was reluctant)
- I now stand to train him, and keep moving around (before I used to train sitting, as I know many other trainers do)
- I now talk a LOT, and make lots of fuss over right things, especially any breakthroughs. This is to keep him engaged and keep his enthusiasm. Talking is generally considered a no no for clicker training (before I generally trained in semi silence except for effusive praise when he had done something really good)
- I am temporarily using the marker "yes" more often than clicking, as it seems to be more effective. I think this may be because the clickers I have are of the "i-click" type and so are rather quiet. Knightley is completely sound proof and I think they are just a bit wishy washy for him. I have ordered two clickers of the loud type. (Clickers are considered a better marker of desireable behaviour than your voice, because your voice changes, and reflects your mood, and possibly your frustration with your dog! A consistent marker is the cornerstone of this type of training, called operant conditioning)
- I try to keep the behaviours varied, when not learning something new. In the past we might review zen by doing three in a row. Now I will do one zen, then a touch while moving my hand so he has to chase after it which he loves, then a down, then another zen..... I have realised he much prefers the active behaviours, so I mix them all up.
- I have made his main mealtime food more boring in the hope that he will see treats as exactly that - treats!! His meals were (on breeders advice) kibble, soaked well in warm water, with a bit of puppy milk, and a couple of tea spoons of wet dog food. I slowly weaned him off the puppy milk bit by bit (he didn't appreciate that change!), and then slowly reduced the amount of wet dog food I was giving him. Last night was his first kibble only meal, which he ate happily. Previously he had refused kibble point blank. We'll see if it helps.
The approach kind of proved itself when I started teaching the beginning of paw targeting. Knightley didn't get it on our first day, but second day, bam bam bam, his rather large paws were hitting the lid I was using again and again and his tail was going happily. In the past new behaviours took longer and were something that didn't make him happy.... they tended to turn him off and make him a little unwilling to continue. So that was exciting. I made some videos of Knightley doing the OL1 (Old Level 1) behaviours the other day, but I need to actually make them into a proper movie before posting them.
We are working hard on LLW and also on keeping under threshold whilst outside. He certainly isn't great at taking treats outside, which is a good indication of being over threshold. Lots more work to do there.
He is definitely growing up, there is more maturity there. Not to say he is sometimes still a real devil... but he is generally less work than he was those first few weeks. We've had him 5 weeks now, which means he just turned 13 weeks old. He is growing so very fast it scares me! It is to the point I am really not a fan of picking him up anymore. They say on a slow growth plan he should be about half his adult weight at 4 months, and that should be about right - maybe a touch under.
Anyway, he is my adorable Knightley, and our bond is becoming very close already. I miss him whenever I leave the house and can't wait to see him again.