Going Around the Horn

I was working with Clover recently on parts of the retrieve, specifically the hold and pick up. I wanted her to hold the dumbbell for at least 5 seconds and separately I wanted her to pick up the dumbbell when cued, turn quickly and move toward me.

We started out a bit rough. We hadn’t practiced for a while and initially Clover would take the dumbbell in her mouth and immediately drop it. Then we worked for a bit and she quickly improved, holding it for several seconds at a time and seemed to be doing well. And then, ugh. She was barely taking it and dropping it. We were back to where we started, maybe worse.

This is what Hannah Branigan calls the “downslope of your training session curve” in her blog post on the topic. (http://www.wonderpupstraining.com/blog/just-one-more)

And often when I get to this point I feel like I have to go around the horn.

Toy Story 2 – around the horn
[Rex is Channel-surfing at a Slow Pace to find the Al’s Toy Barn commercial]
Rex: I can’t find it. It doesn’t seem to be on any of these stations.
Hamm: Oh you’re going too slow, let me do the job.
[Hamm starts Channel-surfing at a Breathtaking Speed]
Rex: It’s too fast. How can you even tell what’s on?
Hamm: I can tell.
[Hamm just skips right past the Al’s Toy Barn commercial]
Rex: Go back, go back, you missed it!
Hamm: Too late, I’m in the 40’s, gotta go around the horn!

We are doing well and then we aren’t, so I keep training until we are doing well again. Sometimes this takes a while and we both get frustrated somewhere in the middle.

But what if I just stopped? What if when we stopped doing well I took a break and we worked on something else and then came back to the task or saved it for another day? Why do I feel like I’m committed and must “go around the horn”?

One of the nice things about positive training is that you are essentially always ending on a good note. My dog should be having a good time and feeling like her time and effort are being rewarded. If we switch to doing something else because we are in the downslope we should be ok to pick up where we left off next time.

So, ideally I quit while I’m ahead and stop when Clover is retrieving and picking up the dumbbell beautifully. The hard part is walking away and moving on when I’ve misjudged and trained too long; I haven’t stopped in time and Clover’s suddenly not doing so well and we’re in the downslope.

My goal for our next training session is to be mindful of the downslope. I’m going to try to quit while things are going well, but if I reach the downslope I’m going to put on the brakes instead of continuing down the hill. At least, that’s my plan….

Clover with dumbbell

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