Believe it or not, one of the best ways to both improve your training and figure out how to solve problems or areas you’re stuck – is video. Video! Don’t be shy (no one but you has to watch it.) Set up your phone or small video camera, get your dog and go for just a short training session. Then review it. During training, we are (hopefully) so focused on the dog that we might not notice things that become glaringly obvious by just taking a step back and looking at the whole picture. Things like: 1) You are saying “Down,” while giving the “stay” hand signal, and you wonder why the dog is remaining in sitting position instead of lying down! 2) You are pulling treats out of your pocket either just before or at the same time as you give commands. If your sequence is always 1) Take out treats, 2) Give command, 3) Dog responds, 4) Reward with treats, then it’s likely that the dogs attention is geared primarily towards the treats. The correct sequence is 1) Give command, 2) Dog responds, 3) Take out treats, 4) Reward with treats. 3) You are too reliant on the leash, for example saying “Let’s go” as you pull the dog forward with the leash, or even just jiggle it. The dog should be moving along with you in response to your verbal “Let’s go” – give it a chance to do by itself! 4) Your dog is responding to your commands and working hard and trying, but you didn’t notice the loud scary noises coming from the construction site next door, and now that you see the video you realize the dog’s body language is becoming progressively more and more stressed. You don’t want to associate obedience to you with stress, so you should have pulled him out of the practice or at least given him additional moral support. In these examples above, the training errors you’re making are very tiny, small ones that can easily slip by when you’re in the moment and have a good flow going. It takes a critical eye to see a lot of those errors, and that’s what your video will be – your critical eye. When you video, short little videos are the best. It takes some time to sit through and watch the whole thing, especially since you’ll probably be pausing and restarting and scrolling back several times. Even in a video of 1-2 minutes can do magic for your training. Don’t forget to review it when you get home! Sometimes you will surprise yourself and the session will look much, much better than it did at the time. (I love when that happens.) Sometimes they’re downright painful to watch. You can always save the videos as a sort of video diary, or you can put them up on Facebook (look at your cool, cool dog!) or you can delete it with a sigh of relief. It’s up to you! But I guarantee that it will move your training and handling skills up a notch or two or ten almost immediately.
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