06 January 2009

Loud training

Orkan has always had a tendency to flip into loud, squeaky, unpleasant noise when he gets stressed enough during training. When he was a puppy, that sound was there almost constantly, he yelled at me to make me give him my food, to get me out of the shower, or just to make me less boring. Of course, he didn’t achieve anything by that yelling, and we gradually got more or less rid of it.

But it still sometimes occurs during shaping sessions, when the reward is really high quality (food in his case) and the criteria is a little difficult, making the reward frequency a bit low. Apparently, his stress level gets too high for him to handle, and he bursts out in loud, high pitched ear-splitting yells.

Simply waiting has helped, and it happens less frequently now, but it’s kind of hard not to say or do anything when that sound is distroying your hearing, if you see? This has made me (more or less by accident) avoid the situations when he starts yelling, by keeping the reward frequency high. And still, when he’s almost one year old, it still happens sometimes. So I figured he needs some awareness of his own stress levels. His little brain rooms a lot of stress, so he might need that awareness for later occasions ;-)

My solution is to give him time-outs (go to your crate, and lay there for a little while. Along with this I give him a verbal marker, in english it would be somthing like “oups”. I think the verbal marker is important in this kind of training, since time-outs don’t give him a specific message on what he did wrong. He also gets a second of time to do something different while my descision about giving him the time-out is being put into action. The first session I saw the potential of him associating stretching (a trick he has learned) with the time-out, since the yelling tendend to happen when he jumped out of a stretch.

Now, it seems to work. I am very happy about that! I still keep his reward frequency high, but now it’s not to avoid stress, it’s rather because he is an extremely fast thinker, doer and learner. When things don’t happen in time, he learns something else, or gets a bit confused. It’s time to start pushing it a bit, to provoke his frustration. Dog training is fun when it works!