I had some new years goals (call them resolutions if you want)…and then life intervened.
By life I mean unexpected expenses, the death of one of our cats, a slow December at work followed the busiest month EVER at Prairie Dog Daycare. I’m working 50+ hours a week and to top it all off, some (minor) health concerns have reared their head and it’s all an indication that I need to re-prioritize my life and build in some more down time for myself. This has meant cancelling weekend plans (including trials) tightening our budget at home (again) and a lot of early bed times.
One of the things that has been bothering me is that I feel like I’ve been neglecting Bear’s training. The lack of training is obvious when I see Bear on the other side of my laptop, chin resting on the coffee table and looking invitingly from me to the toy between us and back again.
*heap on guilt here*
Some might say this is his way of trying to manipulate me or become the alpha or gain status but I see it as his way of trying to engage by ‘hinting’ that he’d like to play and I shouldn’t let that go unnoticed because eventually he’s just not going to bother and , after all, I’ve been trying to get this kind of engagement in the Rally-O ring.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that I need to figure out a way to build training into my schedule – with the Daycare being at capacity there’s simply no room to bring Bear to work for some quick sessions and tracking is out of the question during the week because it’s dark before I get home. I need to have a look at my planned indoor activities and find a way to make them fit into my schedule.
As I was contemplating schedules, training and ‘doing it all’ earlier this week, I came across an interesting website called SpotOn Agility that was touting a training method called Micro-Training in a free e-book. As far as I know, this e-book is still available for free here. I finally got around to downloading and reading it today and Micro Training involves short training sessions interspersed with short play sessions. Each ‘session’ is 1 minute long and the authors recommend training in two sessions a day for a total of 12 minutes.
I had a complete and utter V8 Moment!
I have always encouraged students in my classes to train in short intervals such as while waiting for your coffee to perk or during a commercial break on TV. Typically this is what I have done but never in a formal way and never with a timer as suggested in the e-book.
Furthermore, while the folks at Spot-On have trademarked the terms Micro-Training and Over-Training Zone, these concepts are not unknown to the dog training and behavior world. As the author mentions, she was introduced to the one minute concept by Terry Ryan at a Chicken Camp. Also, in the book Control Unleashed, Leslie McDeavitt discusses relaxation, stress, thresholds and the game called ‘gimme a break’ which starts with a training session aimed at delivering rewards in rapid succession followed by a “break, or allowing the dog to do as they wish. The train, break, train repetition makes training low stress and in many cases the dogs are ready to start training before their break is over. Bear and I have been using the ‘gimme a break’ game in class as a way to build some reinforcement for longer and longer sequences. Bear loves this game and so do I. To me, ‘gimme a break’ and Micro Training are different but of the same cloth: Both aim at working in short, stress free sessions, both demand planning on the part of the handler when determining their training criteria for the session and the goal of each method is to keep the dog calm and able to work through challenging behaviors.
So, I got out my timer, our tug toy and counted out my rewards. We spent 6 minutes playing and working on ‘turn’ which is a clockwise spin in place with a verbal cue only. It was fun, it was easy and you know what – I felt instantly better about Bear, training and my ability to ‘make time’ because lets face it – who can’t fit 6 measly minutes of training into their day?
In order to remind myself that I owe Bear 6 minutes, my timer and treat bag are sitting in plain sight on my kitchen counter.