Friday, January 16, 2009

18. Benefits of Videotaping your Training Sessions

Here is an entry from one of our trainers.

"I have always felt uncomfortable when I was photographed or videotaped. This is interesting, since I have no problem standing in front of a crowd and giving a presentation. Recently, in an effort to make more the concepts of clicker training more ccepssible to you, I embarked on a new journey of videotaping myself.

Several people have asked to see a dog while it was actually learning a new behavior as they wanted to see what kinds of things she offered and how these behaviors were handled by the trainer in order to shape a specific behavior. The video

Shaping Explained: Turning off a Light Switch Part 1 is the result.

Watching my Dog Learn

It was an interesting experience to watch her as she learned. I was able to see many more subtle behaviors I didn’t notice when doing the actual training. This helped me to know what to watch for and gives me more behaviors to click and reward while shaping so the shaping process goes much more smoothly now. I also noticed her body language when she is stressed-when I asked just too much of her than she could give me at that moment. I noticed the loud signals while training, but I saw some subtler precursor behaviors on the video that led to the more obvious ones I had seen. I can now use that observation to keep my steps more simple to help her succeed.

I was also able to watch her as she did problem solving. How did she react? What did she do first? What was her reaction when she got clicked and rewarded? What did she do when she didn’t get clicked? This is useful information that I can store away for when I next teach her a new behavior. I can use this as a monitor of successful I am in my clicker use and expectations of her.

I was able to watch me too!

I could see how I moved my body, which is important in clicker training. I always thought I was loud and physical during dog training. Somewhere along the line that must have changed. My body was quiet and calm, my usually behind my back (hiding the clicker) and my mouth was closed except to offer praise (or cues when needed). This made it much easier for her concentrate on her learning. She didn’t have to learn to ignore my superfluous behaviors and signals to her, which in other environments, I may want her to notice and respond to.

What surprised me was that my brow was furrowed, as I was concentrating so hard! I really enjoy clicker training and had no idea that this is how I look when I am focussed. This is what my dog sees too. After watching the video, I tried smiling a little more, and she relaxed more and had a bit more fun with the training. She is generally a non-demonstrative dog but is loosening up as she learns to trust.

I saw how accurate (or not) my timing for the clicker was.

I was fascinated to learn, especially when I started marking the behaviors on the video for those who are deaf/Hard of Hearing how 'off' my timing was. I was actually marking the end of a behavior, not the motion which I thought I was. This timing is not so critical for most natural behaviors and for behaviors that are completely trained, but can make the difference between Jessie having easy success or struggling through a more foreign behavior. I am now learning to anticipate when to click as by the time I actually click, she may have already finished the behavior.

If you are not sure if you prefer using a marker word or clicker for teaching new behaviors, try videotaping it to see the difference in the timing! Even a well-timed “Yes” is a half second off the mark whereas a clicker is easier to get right when the actual behavior occurs. This really demonstrates how the clicker is a more accurate tool to communicate with your dog, especially for shaping new behaviors that require precision. My analogy is 'why use a butter knife when a scapel is needed'.

I also noticed that when I think she is ready for the next step in training, I allow her a little extra time to figure out what that next step might be that she will get clicked for. I was was quite unaware that I was doing this! In teaching, this wait time is where the learning occurs for the students. We must give the students time to process what we have taught, then give them time to offer the new behavior.

For example, in the Shell Game video, Jessie was consistently giving me a sniff on the bowl each time. She already knew that I also wanted the paw touhc, just hand't given it to me yet in combination. I was confident that if I hesitated before giving my click, she would also offer the paw touch after the sniff, which she did! I would not have discovered for sure that she was ready for that step had I not gave her that second to think. "

Videotape Yourself!
I highly recommend that if you are having challenges in training a behavior, video tape it! Most digital cameras today have the ability to video as well. Even if it’s just three minutes of taping (most allow multiple recordings of this length or much longer), you’d be amazed at what you can learn! And you don’t have to show it to anyone, just take some notes and delete it if you want!

A tripod or even just a towel set up on a table nearby allows you to press the record button and capture a little of your training. Have your training treats and clicker ready to go. If you are not technologically oriented, ask a family member or friend to transfer it onto computer for you to watch. Most programs are very easy to use and after you have watched them do it and tried it a few times yourself, it becomes easy to do.

Go for it! You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself and your dog!