First Training Session

Sunday, July 22, 2007

First Training Session

Today was Finnegan's first formal training session. This morning we fed him less of his normal food (as directed by the trainer since he works better hungry) and packed up some bags, treats, and a towel as we headed just down the street for the lesson. The class, held at a park about a mile from here, was intended to be a group class but there is only one other dog in the class. Of course, we see no problem with this as we essentially get private lessons.

Most of the class was spent talking with the trainer, Caryl Wolff of Doggie Manners, about what the class would cover and general dog physchology. As many trainers are fond of saying, Caryl believes 80% of dog training is human training. A consistent owner will be able to teach a dog any number of commands and tricks. There are five steps to each command.
1. Say the dog's name
2. Say the command once
3. Wait for the correct response
4. Praise well the correct behavior is occuring (there is a .25 second window right after the correct action when the praise should be given)
5. Releasing and ending the command

Our first command was a very basic "Watch". This is intended to gain the dog's attention and make sure he focuses on whoever is handling him or calling his name. Even though it sounds easy and basic adheering to the same guidelines every time can be tricky. Praising for the wrong action, praising to quickly, or not releasing are all mistakes that can be made unless you are focusing on your own actions. Once we began the commands Finn did very well, or rather Finn did his 20% well and I did my 80% alright. To keep the dog focused only one handler works with him during class, next week Julia will be the one to work with him.

Homework. With any good class there is some amount of practice needed to truly gain the most out of the instruction and dog training is no different. We were instructed to work with Finn 5-6 times a day for 4-5 minutes each time. Done correctly this is all the time that is needed to establish behaviors. We are looking forward to teaching Finn how to balance treats on his nose and roll over so for now we are eager work with him and teach him how to learn.