There are two beings involved in any training process, the learner and the teacher. As Logan and I get to know each other, we both switch these roles over from time to time. He is teaching me to examine the science of learning more deeply so that I can meet his needs more, he is teaching me patience and and to do my best to remain compassionate towards him. He is struggling in certain environments and I need to occasionally remind myself of that.
The point of this is that this lack of progress (which is only the expectations I have, rather than what is going on as we are progressing every day), can lead to my behaviour of training him not being reinforced enough. Behaviour is lawful, that means my behaviour is lawful too. If my behaviour of doing a particular exercise with him isn’t reinforced well enough, then it is unlikley to get stronger or reoccur. Loose lead walking is one of these behaviours. When he came to live with me, he pulled like a train on the lead all the time. And I mean all the time, never not. Because his history of pulling on the lead was so strong, it has taken a long time to change. That, combined with me not practicing enough due to lack of reinforcement means we hadn’ been showing much progress. Having said that, his high arousal levels are the root cause of his pulling and we do work on reducing, or him controlling, his arousal every day and this is paying off.
So what have I done about it? I’ve changed the criteria for my behaviour. I’ll save you all the details as not to bore you but I’ve switched my perspective on his lead walking. This has allowed me to be reinforced more often and to start seeing the progress he is making rather than being frustrated (remember, frustration comes from a previously reinforced behaviour not being working, not enough reinforcment leads to frustration).
The other thing I have done is change my antecedents. I make sure I am wearing comfortable clothing and trainers (sneakers for those Stateside), and always have my treat pouch loaded with goodies for work when we encounter people and dogs. The other thing I have done is listen to my favourite podcasts. Drinking from the Toilet by Hannah Brannigan, The Fenzi Dog Sport Academy Podcast and The Cognitive Dog Podcasts are all on my playlists. I select one which will run for the amount of time I want to be out and let it play while we do our training walk. I have now increased the amount of reinforcement available to me and as such we are doing more training walks and we are getting better at it. Just like anything, the more you pratice, the better you get at it.
As a side note, over the last two days we have seen 8 dogs when we have been out on the lead training walks; number of barks = 6, and these were only at two of the dogs we saw. He has walked by 6 dogs without barking and been far more relaxed around people when out.
Slowly getting there.