Have you ever found a restriction to be good? If you’re a dog trainer, limiting yourself is a great thing, especially when it is applied to your training sessions and how much you are asking of your dog. By limiting yourself to a certain preset time, gain, or repetitions, you can get a better workout in less time. I really accepted that after training with Bob Bailey and Parvene Farhoody in the chicken workshops. We always had timed workouts and when we had more time to work, say 10 to 20 minutes, we were encouraged to split this up into 2 to 4 minutes. Training sessions that give us time to see “if we are better than when we started,” as Bob would say.
Why should it be a good thing to limit yourself in a training session? Well, for one, limit your mistakes. Simply put, if you exercise for a shorter period of time, you will make fewer mistakes. You will also have a break in the training attempts and can thus decide whether you will actually achieve what you want in a training session or whether you should perhaps sit down and come up with a new training plan before you bring your dog out again. Instead of falling into the “just one more try” trap and watching some of your nice behavior dissolve before your eyes (someone sculpted a retrieve and did that?), You can stop and correct your training mistake before it turns becomes a big problem.
Here are some ways to set limits for your workouts:
Time: Decide in advance how long this session will last and set a timer. I like this option best when working on fluid workouts or intervals. I find that 4 to 5 minutes is usually a nice time to get a good workout in, and short enough not to dig myself into a hole when I start making mistakes. At the end of the time, I set up the dog and decide on the next training session.
Number of training attempts: I will use a series of training trials to measure my success rate on a behavior or chain. For example, on signals, I could choose to do 5 short signal exercises and see which numbers were correct. This limits my training time and gives me excellent data on my success rate.
Number of reinforcements: I find one of the most challenging times to limit myself in training when designing behavior. I want to go on! Since sculpting is all about shifting criteria, it’s easy to either take a big jump that threw you off course or move so slowly with criteria shifts that you run into the problem that the animal is at gets stuck in a certain behavior. I count the cookies out before training for these situations. I put the 10 biscuits in my bait bag or on the counter and train when they’re gone, we’re done.
By carefully considering what training you will offer your dog and how long you will be working, you can make the most of your training time and limit the number of mistakes your behavior introduces into your behavior.
The timing of my workouts was a change I made after the chicken workshops, but nowhere near the only one. I’ve learned a lot from my cueing workshops and I will share this with you in my online training course, Cues You Can Use. The course registration is open and the course starts on July 1st. Check out the course here: https://www.Pin a Dog.com/shop/online-sports-classes/sports-training-intensives/cues-you-can-use/