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I had a training fail that was actually rather sweet and amusing. It's been too cold and slippery to walk outside as much as I'd like. Instead I've been working on teaching Galen new tricks in the house. Yesterday I was working on something a bit more complicated, one which required chaining a new trick onto an old one. He was solid on the old part, but he just didn't understand what was expected for the new part. He kept trying and trying, throwing in all sorts of other tricks he knew, and getting frustrated when none of them were what I wanted.

Finally he short circuited. He got up, ran from the room, and returned with his squeaky tennis ball. He then lay down, exactly where we had been practicing, squeaking his ball. I felt kind of bad. Clearly I had pushed him too hard. However, I thought it was very sweet he chose to return. I was also pleased and amused he found a benign way to vent his frustration. Squeak squeak! Going forward I will need to remember his squeaky tennis ball might signal more than just a desire to play..

I let him calm down for a few minutes. Then we worked briefly on a couple of tricks just to build his confidence back, followed by a break for dinner.
 

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That's a really sweet way for Galen to communicate that he had enough. Good teamwork, all around.
 

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Noelle will go get Mr. Fox, her squeaky fox toy, for exactly the same reason. I've obviously pushed her too hard in training and she needs to play tug to release tension. One thing that helps me keep that from happening is thinking in terms of video games. When you're playing a video game, you have minions to fight and bosses. Boss battles are the supercharged battles that are extra hard, sometimes almost too hard. Did you ever notice what comes after a boss battle? A really easy minion or simple puzzle. Video games are using psychology to get us to keep playing. If the game got progressively harder every level, we'd rage quit in frustration. Instead, games get harder in stages, and they drop the difficulty to zero after a boss challenge.

We can, and should, do this with our dog training. If we're working toward a one minute sit, start with a one second sit. Level up to a 5 second sit (boss battle) then drop difficulty down to a one second sit. Next boss battle is a 10 second sit, after success, drop difficulty to a two second sit. This is how you can keep your dog from rage quitting. When you finally do the one minute ultimate boss battle, reinforce your dog after a one second sit.

Decide ahead of time if you're training a boss battle, and if you are, release the tension by rewarding the easiest version possible. And if your dog rage quits and gets a squeaky toy, play with your dog. Because dog training is supposed to be fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Noelle will go get Mr. Fox, her squeaky fox toy, for exactly the same reason. I've obviously pushed her too hard in training and she needs to play tug to release tension. One thing that helps me keep that from happening is thinking in terms of video games. When you're playing a video game, you have minions to fight and bosses. Boss battles are the supercharged battles that are extra hard, sometimes almost too hard. Did you ever notice what comes after a boss battle? A really easy minion or simple puzzle. Video games are using psychology to get us to keep playing. If the game got progressively harder every level, we'd rage quit in frustration. Instead, games get harder in stages, and they drop the difficulty to zero after a boss challenge.

We can, and should, do this with our dog training. If we're working toward a one minute sit, start with a one second sit. Level up to a 5 second sit (boss battle) then drop difficulty down to a one second sit. Next boss battle is a 10 second sit, after success, drop difficulty to a two second sit. This is how you can keep your dog from rage quitting. When you finally do the one minute ultimate boss battle, reinforce your dog after a one second sit.

Decide ahead of time if you're training a boss battle, and if you are, release the tension by rewarding the easiest version possible. And if your dog rage quits and gets a squeaky toy, play with your dog. Because dog training is supposed to be fun.
I like your phrase, "rage quit."


Years ago I attended a horse training clinic in which the clinician drilled into us, "Stop on a good note." He repeated stressed the importance of resisting the temptation to continue working on hard stuff after the horse has learned something new and difficult. After the horse successfully performs, say, a turn on the haunches for the very first time...just stop.

You just made me realize I have unconsciously brought the concept of stopping on a good note into dog training. I always start training with a few repetitions of very easy tricks: sit, down, touch. It's kind of a warmup. I then work on harder stuff, like a completely new trick. A new one for him is "scootch," which is basically a crawl. After I get one or two good scootches I revert back to really basic stuff, like touch and sit, to use up the rest of the treats. We then quit and go do something else. A few hours later or the next day we do the same thing: a few easy tricks, a couple of good scootches, a couple of easy tricks, then stop.

Interestingly, after a good sleep Galen was able to perform the trick that had so upset him. He's far from solid yet, but I could see him making choices about how to shift his weight and balance himself. So, I think his difficulty wasn't just in understanding the trick; it was also figuring out the body mechanics of actually doing it. He hasn't nailed the mechanics yet, but I think his little brain was definitely working on the problem overnight.
 
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