The third day is not a charm

Training is exhausting. Yesterday Kai was on a mission to make me question the sanity of this. Trying to eat, get work done, have a conversation… well, these are all quite hard with a clicker in one hand and a growling dog getting an almost continuous level of reinforcement. There was a definite increase in growling and teeth baring behavior yesterday. He was eye-balling, hard staring, growling and teeth baring his little head off. And this morning he ran into a crate with another dog, growling like a lunatic, and then ushered the other dog out of the crate using a grand display of his teeth.

So, I have two thoughts. One, why have I completely forgotten the use of and benefits of management? I don’t need to subject myself to hours of awkward training set-ups and the inability to eat a meal. I can crate him. I can give him a Kong (more food, ugh). I can switch gears and go play outside which is a highly successful, non-growly thing for Kai. Perhaps we are ALL a little too stressed with this constant learning…or rather, constant exposure. I often tell my clients, the only good treatment plans are the ones that you’ll actually do. So, I need to be a little more proactive in management so that I can follow through.

I’ll admit, last night when I was on my 9th cheese stick with Kai, every time he uttered a sound I just wanted to strangle him. I was like, come ON, give it up – take a breather, buddy! I’ve never been more excited about going to bed. So, yes, definitely time to remember the grace and harmony that a little old fashioned management can bring.

Next thought, why the increase in behavior displays? He is a very competitive dog and well clicker trained. So, perhaps I am getting a huge spike in operant displays while the emotions take some time to catch up. Surely, I don’t think there’s any possibility I’ve altered his emotions at this point. Eight years is a long time to strengthen and build a behavior and the emotions behind it. I’m not going to change it in two days. Maybe, because I am sitting there with a bowl of food and four drooling dogs, I am creating a stressful ambiance conducive to the naughty face. It is definitely stressful for me to have them all closing in on me, panting, hoping for some cheese. The proximity alone is a huge source of tension. Then, there’s the food which increases arousal. Well, actually the food doesn’t really cause the problem… it’s the clicking. The second I click, all of the dogs are like, “What? We’re training? OK, let me show you what I can do”.

I have to think about the most effective way to keep the environment successful but also as organic and natural as possible. I am a hearty believer in training as close to real life as possible. Otherwise, it falls apart in real life or it’s just one more thing you have to go back and fix. And I already give myself plenty to go back and fix.

Well, only two growls while I’ve been writing this.

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