Vertigo sadly isn't feeling well today. We bought dog food that was past its expiry date, because it is much cheaper, and it was fine last time. This time, the food was completely stale. Neither Vertigo nor I noticed at first, although I did think it smelt rather more like cardboard than usual. So he ate about a breakfast worth and then I think it made him start to feel ill and he has refused to eat any more. He's not a picky eater and this is food he will normally work for in high distractions. Luckily, we had other dog food around the house but it's obvious he's still not feeling well because he would eat it but not voraciously, and he has hardly been a brat at all. And he's not even feeling up to blogging! Tomorrow I will be attempting to take the food back to the pet shop, because paying less for old food shouldn't mean buying food that is off, it should just mean buying food that is slightly less nutritionally sound. Fingers crossed that they'll see that, even though their receipt says "no returns on sale items". If they don't take it back, they've lost MY patronage (and of course, Vertigo's).
Anyway, I've been thinking about something that happened last week and what it's taught me about dog training.
Vertigo and I were at our puppy training class and of course he was doing awesomely. Close to the end, we were all working on "sit" and as he already knows it with a verbal cue I figured I would work on physical manipulation with him. However, all he wanted to do was chew on me every time I got my hand near his collar. So I pulled out the clicker and started fixing it by putting my hand hear him and clicking before he went nuts. The head trainer came and watched for a while and pointed out I was clicking a fraction of a second too late. In her words, Vertigo has me all figured out. Which, if you have been following my blog, you know is true. He thinks he's trained me to feed him for so much! But what she saw was happening was Vertigo playing with my hands so that I would touch his collar again so that I would click.
First of all, although everybody who knows me KNOWS that I hate admitting I'm wrong, it was a really good experience to be told this, especially since I'm still pretty new at clicker training. Also, it's much easier to see the mistakes that somebody else is doing in training than yourself, so I'm glad she picked up on it for me.
Second of all though, she's advocating verbal corrections, and while I don't have an issue with them, Vertigo WAS going to be my "experiment dog" for raising a dog without "positive punishment". Although the head trainer obviously respects me enough that she said, and not in a condescending way, that I should train him the way I want, I admit that since then I've been using verbal corrections a lot more with him. Again, this isn't a bad thing, it's just different than my original plan.
C. No wait, Third. And this is the huge thing I really learned from this experience. The next day I decided to be proactive and work on his collar sensitivity, and he was one hundred percent fine. I could lead him around by the collar, grab him by the collar, hold him by the collar. So what was the issue? I realized that what I SHOULD have realized was that Vertigo was completely overstimulated. We'd been training for an hour and he'd been in the midst of half a dozen other puppies, and he'd been focusing INCREDIBLY well. I should have taken him off to the side and let him calm down instead of trying to fix the issue. After all, one of the big underlying issues in positive training is the idea of fixing the underlying emotion. I was just trying to fix the symptom of his overstimulation.
I continue to forget that at this point he is only 15 weeks old, meaning I've only had him for 6 weeks. He's still a little guy and he has his limits.
On that note, we're proactively working on his issues with other dogs, but when he's feeling better I'll let him tell you all about that. After all, my training ramblings surely can't be as interesting as hearing his point of view.
'Till next time I have some huge training revelation,
Jacinta (the Chauffeur/Sidekick and sometimes Mummy)