Friday, January 21, 2011

Mantra: 'Gilda is My Daughter'

No, I'm not one of 'those' people... Let me explain...
We worked with Jessica at practice today in (yet another) attempt to get my Handling Skills up to speed. We worked mainly on refining basics such as Shadow Handling and Recalls and worked on our problem areas: Start Line Stays and Weave Pole training.

I quickly came to realize that my suspicions were correct and I am indeed the root of 'our' problems!

During Shadow Handling for instance, I am rewarding Gilda for her Heel position while she jumps at and nibbles at my treat hand. I am therefore directly reinforcing this unwanted behavior. Jessica explained that I should leave my treat hand at my side (the side closest to the dog) and only treat when Gilda stops nibbling. She said that eventually, Gilda will learn that she only gets the treat when she is in the correct position and not nibbling. So simple, right?

During Recall exercises, I am inadvertently cueing Gilda with my bad body mechanics! For example, I had no idea that when trying to cue Gilda to my left side during a Foundation Recall, she was actually cueing from my right hand which I was unknowingly holding up. [Video can also help you see some habits that you may not even realize you're doing]

While working on Gilda's Stays, Jessica explained that I was using a verbal "Stay" and a hand signal too often. Ideally, I should give the command once and Gilda is to follow that command until she hears a Release Cue.  I will work on my consistency with this because Gilda learns very well when we are consistent.

It is so helpful to have someone so knowledgeable there to explain these things which seem so simple once you hear them! Gilda, being the bright little dog that she is, adapts very quickly to the new and improved handling while we are working.

What really got me though is when Jessica would ask, "Why did you reward that?" and my answer was something to the effect of, "I felt bad", "She was getting frustrated", or "She was really trying". I realized that I was acting like my patients' parents at work who ring their call-light to report that their 18-month old "Won't stop picking at her IV" or ask their 2-year-old, "Do you want to take your medicine?" Sometimes I think to myself, "Who is in charge in that room?"

It hit home that as cute and funny as Gilda can be, I really need to use my 'Parent Mode' and start acting like her Handler. Just as with humans, consistency is key, rules need to be followed and a little frustration is just part of learning something new!

Thanks Jessica for helping me see this!
{Jessica's awesome BC 'Style'}
{I apparently need a pic of Jessica & Gilda!}

1 comment:

Catalina said...

I'm totally one of those people LOL!
I agree that video helps a lot. It also makes me feel bad when I can see my lack of skills :S