Monday, May 18, 2015

How to Stay Motivated while Training Your Service Dog Part 2

How to Stay Motivated while Training Your Service Dog Part 2

It is important to try to identify the parts of the training that you aren't enjoying.
What exactly is slowing you down, tiring you out or turning you off?

Once you have done that, you can tackle each part, change what you need to make it work for you and move beyond each. Talk to others to get ideas. Ask on Facebook or dog trainers. Even ask a friend. We all go through it and have different ways to cope that you can try.

What I don't like:
How I can change it:

Here are some other ideas to stay motivated:

1. Take regular days off. Just like us and other work, we need to take 2 days off each week to give ourselves time down to recharge. Training every day takes the fun out of it. Training doesn't have to be done every day and in fact, giving our dogs time off between lets them think about a behavior and progress faster. They and we are eager to get back to training. Burn out is huge among owner-trained service dogs.

2. Find a friend to train with once a week. Working together with someone else helps keeps you committed to scheduled days at different locations.

3. Vary the behaviors you train. Come back a month later and retrain from the beginning but progress further than before.

4. Randomly draw from a list of behaviors you need to train and train that behavior for several sessions. Draw a new one and train that. Work your way through all of those and repeat until you get to your progress goal for each behavior. When you finish one, add another in to take it's place. The somewhat unpredictable nature of the process keeps you interested.

5. Teach someone else (whether by explaining or writing it down or making a video) how to train a behavior you aren't enjoying or are having a challenge with. This will help you think form another's perspective and you may even come up with a solution or a new way to teach it.

6. Train one aspect of the behavior that you enjoy then leave it for a bit. Come back to it later.

7. Break behaviors or tasks into smaller steps. Identify your specific challenges and break those down into 4 steps, the again another 2 each.

8. Research other ways to teach a behavior or generalize or proof it. Do those as they may be more fun! 

9. Make a training plan and tick off or fill in the steps you have accomplished. This gives you a quick visual reinforcer that you are making progress!

10. Add what you are training to your computer calendar for the next week or month. Then you get reminders the day before and you can mull it over in your mind. This allows you to adjust it as you go along. 

11. Do a simple version of the task. Come back at later date and teach more complex version.

12. Use a 'snakes and ladders' approach on ourselves. Train to your goal for a few days, then do a shorter training day. Go back to a longer day. This way you get mini breaks but still move towards your goals.

13. Work on concepts rather than behaviors. It's a bigger picture approach. Once your dog understands the concept, she can learn  new applications of it much faster.
For example: teaching distance as a concept
If you teach the distance aspect of several different behaviors all at once, the dog will understand it faster.  Each of these behaviors have a distance element: nose target, paw, sit, down, crate, mat, jump, retrieve. If you train each behavior to 10 feet, your dog will solidly be able to do a behavior at that distance. Train each one to 15 feet. etc.

14. For public access training, start with what is doable for you.
Maybe one day a week is fine. Even when you are doing mostly public access training, do only a maximum of 3 days each week. Adding transportation to and from the pubic site adds stress. You need to account for that. You will be more relaxed and so will your dog if you give yourself time to recharge between by staying closer to home. Plan the further location like field trips. Pack a lunch.

15. For public access training, invite a friend to be a helper. They can run interference from people and dogs, taking the focus off you so you can focus on training.

16. Collect and store all equipment as close as possible to where you train at home or stored in a trunk when you do public access training. Have to carry and set up equipment every time can be very demotivating. You may need to be creative and store some equipment in unusual places. Get permission and focus on training those behaviors in a short period, then remove the equipment and go on to other behaviors.

17. Prepare treats in bulk once a week. Bake, cut up and freeze them into training session sized portion. Sandwich bags work well. If treat preparation gets you down, splurge and purchase good quality pre-cut treats once in awhile. Search out easy to make recipes. Or easy to make treats. My dogs works for cut up vegetables like cooked carrots and yam, raw cucumbers and zuchini, frozen peas. Partly thawed slow-cooked kidney beans. They also enjoy Cheerios, squares of beef fat (instead of cheese), yogurt, thick pea soup and gravy placed in tubes.

What other things do you do to keep yourself motivated to train?  Share them in the comments section.