If you’ve ever had a fabulous training session that ended poorly because you chose to ask your dog for ‘just one more’ repetition of a behavior too many times, you are familiar with the affliction I call ‘just-one-more-itis’, or JOMI.
It usually happens because we humans are highly reinforced by sucess in training. A friend and I recently discussed how sucessful training is addictive and that jolt of dopamine we feel when our dog gets it right, is something we often try to chase a little harder than we need to. Dogs are beings with finite attention, and physical capacity and in every training session that goes too long, there’s a point at which the dog’s behavior begins to degrade. As trainers we should be actively trying to avoid that point, but sometimes, we are victims of dopamine.
Fortunately for you, I am well versed in this affliction and here are 4 things I do to keep it at bay.
1. Make a plan
We know that the most efficient training involves a training plan. Sometimes those plans might be written, sometimes those plans might reside in our heads. Either way, having a specific training plan for a session, and even better yet, outlining when and how we’ll end the session can help us from automatically falling into the JOMI trap.
2. Set a timer
Using a timer can help prevent JOMI by making you more aware of how much time you have been training for. In the past, I’ve used inexpensive kitchen timers, and my smart watch timer function to remind me when my time is up and I need to end a session. Generally I set my timer for 1-2 minutes as that’s generally enough time to get in quite a few repetitions of a specific behaviour without overtaxing a dog.
3. Count out your rewards
If you count out your rewards before a session and train until those rewards have been given to your dog, you’ll be forced to stop the session to reload. If you put your container a few steps away from your training area, you’re forced to break for more than a few seconds. Another way to do this is to cheat for this grab as many treats as one hand will hold and train until those treats are gone. I call this training in handfulls. Whichever strategy you choose, limiting the number of rewards on your person will give you a break between sessions to evaluate your progress against your plan and stop JOMI in it’s tracks.
4. Record your training sessions
I sincerely believe that recording and reviewing my training sessions makes me a better trainer. Why? Because I can use a video camera as an electronic accountability partner. After I’ve made my training plan, grabbed a handful of treats and trained my dog, I can review the session instantly to see if that session met the goals I set in the training plan. Finally, in my experience sometimes, just knowing I’m recording something for review helps me be more rigorous and conscious when it comes to carrying out my training plan.