So after many many months of impatiently waiting, I have finally received Sue Ailsby's Training Levels: Steps to Success and so far am very very happy with the two books. They come some 10 years after she wrote the original Training Levels (which are available free online here), and while in many respects they are similar to the originals, there are some big changes and improvements. One of the main changes is instead of the 7 levels of the original Levels, there are now only 4 in the new books. The books are divided into Level 1-2 and 3-4, and are quite small (would likely fit into my handbag which is nice) and are ringbound, which means they stay open when you want them to - great for referring to whilst training. The one trade off with the small size of the book is a slightly smaller font, about which there has been a small amount of complaint. I can just manage it, but I could see reading for hours would give me a headache. Sue is currently working on bringing it out on Kindle, which will help older eyes and those with visual impairments.
|The first book of the two books by Sue Ailsby.|
Her current dog Syn is on the cover, the photo
from when she was just a tiny puppy. I must admit,
despite the work involved, I miss those first couple
weeks of tiny fluffy puppy-ness.
"Train the dog that shows up", ie, don't waste time worrying that the dog is doing everything wrong, or is completely hyper, or isn't interested in the silly retrieving game you keep wanting to play with them..... just get on with accepting the dog that is in front of you at that very moment, and work with what they bring to the training sessions.
So I'm thrilled about the new books. I quickly went through Level 1 of the New Levels (NL), and apart from some of what are called the comeafters, which are kind of like bonus points and extra proofing, we passed it all fine - although we do have some occasional barking problems with zen. The books are written with such humor and understanding of the subject matter, I can understand now why they were such a huge job for Sue. She has poured her heart into those books. For anyone who wants to take their dogs into dogsports, or as a working dog, or just as a pleasant pet... the books are a truly excellent choice for an operant conditioning based training system.
I then moved ahead and trained what I had been intending to train next in the Original Levels (OL), a behaviour called 'distance'. This is where the dog goes out from your side, circles around some sort of post/pole/object, then comes back to you. I decided to add a traditional finish to it too, so I taught that myself, which was incredibly easy. Distance too was so very easy. After the much harder 'Under' cue we have been working on, this was taught in a matter of minutes. I was pretty thrilled, I have to say. Knightley is really starting to understand what I want from him, and is enjoying the training. Also, learning new things seems to really tire him out, so that's a good bonus!
The barking issues are continuing still, sigh, but I have decided to put him in his fabric crate in another room when he can't be quiet when my husband and I are eating in the same room as him. Hopefully he might learn. Either way, it means that it reduces his overall barking, and the less he barks, the less he will bark. He even barks when we are doing some shaping work, and I don't click when he expects a click. His barks are so often from frustration and a desire for attention. In the shaping situation he does stop barking fairly quickly and work out what he needs to do to get another click. I wish he shut up in the other situations, but he seems to get something out of barking. It definitely is true when they say most barking is self-reinforcing!
Still, despite the barking, some leash biting, and some rough mouthing when excited, he is doing very well and starting to learn like a sponge. I am proud of my puppy!