The other day I was given a very clear reminder that sometimes, when working new behaviors, you have to take a step back and really lower the criteria.
Rio’s been learning weaves based on the 2×2 system (it was slightly modified because of the space available in the basement during winter). He had been doing really well with 4 poles in line so I opted to add in the last set of poles at an angle. Not surprisingly, Rio did awesome with the last set of poles. We were doing different entrances, working both sides and he was just weaving right through. I was so very impressed! While he’d being doing the 4 poles nicely, he wasn’t as driven to do them as I had hoped, but it seemed with the additional poles something changed. He was weaving and pushing through the poles beautifully. He was so on top of it that I was able to line up one of the last two poles. Like always, I ended on a positive note and continued on with the day.
I was so excited about the huge improvements I’d seen in Rio’s weaves that I was quite antsy to get to work again! The next training session I started with 6 poles but the last two really off-set, which was a slightly lower criteria. It didn’t start out on a good note at all, it seemed the entry started to suffer–he was going in between the poles and laying down out of frustration. He’d never shown this behavior before and I was perplexed. My second mistake (since the first was starting the criteria too high) was not stopping then and there and thinking about what was going on. Instead, my high level of excitement (for getting to work) turned into high level of frustration. For all of his chutzpa and confidence, Rio’s a pretty soft dog… he was shutting down because I was getting frustrated. After 5 futile minutes, I finally stopped, gave Rio a break, counted to 10, and used my brain to figure out what was going on.
Then the light bulb went off and I realized I didn’t reduce the criteria enough. I started almost exactly were I stopped last time when he was rocking it and had progressed up to that level. As soon as I moved the last set out of the way his broken entries fixed immediately. I was a bad dog trainer and let my own excitement get the best of me!