Friday, April 8, 2016

Are You Training Her?

Barley is a dog that demands attention with her curly tail and her intense focus on me. We spent 5 years taking daily walks in our old neighborhood. If we went out of town, our neighbors would comment on how much they'd missed seeing us (despite the fact that our neighborly conversations never extended past "Hi! How are you? How about this weather?"). 

Walks in our new neighborhood have been no different. Neighbors stop and ask what kind of dog she is or shout "That's a good looking dog" as we walk by. But I was thrown off by one of the neighborhood kids recently. 

A group of kids were playing football in the middle of the street and as we walked by, one girl yelled, "Are you training her?"


Those who have been long-term readers know that one of the things I love about walking with Barley is the opportunity to talk to people about training. At first, I wasn't sure how to respond. We weren't actively training specific skills like we do in agility class or when we pick out a new behavior to learn. We'd taken enough walks in our new neighborhood that we were cutting back on the number of treats she was getting when she saw another dog. Were we training?

I'm not particularly good at talking to children, so I fumbled out "yes" and kept walking, but I didn't stop thinking about my response.

I realized that even when I'm not intentionally training Barley, we are training. When we're walking, I'm reinforcing the behavior the we did spend hours formally training (and sometimes we have to go back to that formal training).

"Yes, I do want to check out that view of the lake, but I know I need to keep my leash loose, so I'll wait for you."

Our walks are also good places to reinforce the behavior we do need in more formal training settings like sit-stays in new places to help with our start-line stays in agility.



We can use benches to practice sending to tables for agility class. 


Every time I have Barley pose for a picture and praise her for her good behavior, she remembers that feeling and is more likely to do it in more serious situations. Every time she looks at me instead of another dog and I tell her what a good puppy she is, she's more likely to look at me the next time we have an encounter with another dog.

We are always training. Even when I don't realize it. Our agility instructor always reminds our class, "They perform what they practice." Every walk we take, every interaction we have, is practice for helping Barley understand the appropriate ways to navigate her world and we'll never actually be done training.


We're joining up with Tenacious Little Terrier, Rubicon Days, and Cascadian Nomads for the Positive Reinforcement Pet Training Week that begins on the first Monday of each month and lasts all week.  Be sure to visit all of the other great blogs participating in the hop!


16 comments:

  1. I think sometimes once you get into the training mindset, it just becomes habit. Before Luke came along, I never did much training, so walks were just walks. But now I think I am always thinking about training when we walk, even with the girls who don't get quite as much. Though I still have a tendency to forget treats sometimes when we head out, and then I get really mad at myself!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. Sometimes I forget treats, too, and if we only have time for a quick loop or we're already off our street by the time I realize it, I always just cross my fingers and hope that we can get by without them. In a pinch, Barley's happily accepted "air treats"--which is me holding out my fingers like I have a treat and then she "takes" the treat and wags her tail and trots along again. I can't pull that off too many times in one walk, but it does help redirect her momentarily if necessary.

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  2. We do the same thing! I'm always sort of training them even when I'm not! I'm also horrible at talking to children, too! LOL!

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    1. I'm so glad I'm not alone in not knowing how to talk to children!

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  3. We're always training too. I tend to stuff treats in all my pockets... and try to remember to check them before doing laundry!

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    1. My favorite is always when I'm not with Barley and I reach in a jacket pocket and pull out a piece of salmon jerky or something along with my keys :)

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  4. Hahah, yes children can be difficult to communicate with sometimes :) Glad your pup is enjoying her new neighborhood walks!!

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    1. I don't know how you do it 5 days a week. These were at least like middle school children, but I still couldn't do it!

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  5. I never know what to do with kids, either! Especially ones that want to pet my dog. Nala loves kids, but she's also big, and even kids who want to pet her are a little bit jumpy and scared and likely to shriek when she tries to lick them. So one thing I do now is say, "Yeah! Want to help me train her?" Then I ask her to sit or lay down, and have the kids let her lick a treat out of their palms. That way, everyone's happy! The last kid I did this kept asking me to try it again until her dad made her leave, which was pretty cute. And it's great for Nala, since it counters her gut instinct when she sees kids, which is to make a beeline toward them and lick them to death.

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    1. I love that response! Barley is very nervous around kids, so we are very selective about which kids we select to help train her--if there's more than one or they're under a certain height or they move in certain ways or they make certain sounds, we keep a big distance between us. I'm glad Nala's getting such good practice from kids you encounter!

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  6. I think after a while the training just becomes second nature. I know there are times I don't even realize I am doing it. Goes to show that the people get trained too. :)

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    1. Oh yes! When we first started working with our first trainer, I think she spent more time training me than we spent doing anything with Barley--she had to train me how to walk and how to hold the leash and about a 1000 other things before we even thought about what was happening on the other end of the leash :) Luckily all of that has become second nature now because my brain was on the verge of exploding those first few weeks :)

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  7. I think, like you do, that even when we're not actively training, we are training them. If you'd let Barley drag you to the lake, that would've been training too (although not a good kind). But, of course you know that! I love simple walks and other outings for reinforcing all that stuff that we've taught more formally. Great post.

    Thanks for the coyote book suggestion. I haven't read it so I'm getting it!

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    1. Yes! We've done plenty of the not good training, too--most recently with eating the cat food and it's so much harder to "untrain!"

      I hope you like the book! It made me see coyotes totally differently than I had before.

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  8. I train without even thinking of it and when I'm not training, I'm reinforcing behaviors we have learned.

    I love questions from little kids, and always try to interject some little tidbit about the proper way to treat animals. After all, they will change the world some day. :-)

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    1. I probably need to put all of our blog buddies on speed dial because it sounds like everyone is better at talking to kids than I am! I have no problem talking to adults about Barley's training, but put a kid in front of me asking the same question and Barley and I are both looking for escape routes!

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