Friday, July 24, 2015

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say: Animal Training Thoughts

Thirteen Month Old Tesla
I have a 13-month old Golden Retriever, Tesla. I am having a blast training her. One method I use to help me get her solid in a new behavior is to reinforce that behavior right before she gets her meal. That is the biggest reward and for her to associate these new or old behaviors with her meal, gets her to do them more successful at other times.  That Pavlovian response works well!  If I ask her to sit, down, or spin left or right, she associates it with her tasty breakfast or dinner. 

This morning, I was working with Tesla to do her "backup" and "sit/stay" behavior.  She did those very quickly and as I entered her pen that I feed her in, I placed the bowl down. I was going to have her wait outside the pen as I stepped out of the pen leaving her bowl all by itself until I gave her the release command and then she could go get her meal. But before I did that, I asked her to do her best trick which is to "show me your best side." She swings her head to the right when I ask her that. It is so cute! She does that trick without me asking inside the pen when she is waiting for me to give her permission to eat.  She goes through her entire repertoire hoping one of them will be the magic word to tell her it is ok to dine! Today, I was adding more complexity and changing the location of where I was asking her to do this trick. She looked at me confused because she doesn't do that trick outside the pen! I waited a moment to see if Tesla would do the trick but she still sat there confused. I asked again with the same result and I said, "Come on, you know how to show me your best side."  When I said that, she popped up and came towards the pen.  I stopped her because I hadn't released her and made her go back. I asked again and she did her head swing to the side and I then released her quickly and rewarded her with her meal.

As I walked away from the pen, I recalled the words I had said when Tesla popped up out of her sit/stay and realized, I DID release her.  I said "Come!" She didn't understand the entire sentence but she did hear and respond correctly to the word "Come." That was such a great lesson for me. Choosing our words carefully when we train is so important. It is also important when we do intuitive energy work as well as all aspects of our lives. Learning to listen to our own words and how we use them is as important as listening to others. If our animals are not behaving or learning the appropriate behavior we are trying to teach them, are we looking at our own words, our body language, our emotions? Our animals are listening to us. They listen to us way better than we do to them. Today was a great reminder to do the check-in on myself and realized, I was the one responsible for Tesla not doing what I meant her to do. She did exactly what I said. What a good girl and thanks for teaching me something I already knew but needed the reminder!!!

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