These are a few of my favorite things…
If you are like me, you train almost entirely by yourself.
Training by yourself makes it harder to stay motivated, and also a lot harder to stay objective about your training.
Recording your training sessions on video helps with both of these problems… it’s an amazing tool! But it does often mean stepping outside of your comfort zone.
I know, watching yourself on video is almost as uncomfortable as listening to your own voice on your outgoing voicemail message. (Ugh. I do NOT sound like that in real life.) But once you get used to hating those pants and wondering why you ever thought that haircut was a good idea… you’ll start to see things in your training that can really help push you forward!
It’s impossible to see everything that happens during a training session. If you are focused on your criteria and mechanics, you won’t be able to see subtle emotional changes in your dog. If you look for changes in emotional signals, you’re likely to miss other criteria. Brains just aren’t meant to work that way. And in fact, the best training is done when you are 100% focused on one dimension… but that will mean that you necessarily miss other things. That’s not a big problem in the short run, but letting it build up over weeks to months can get us in trouble.
This is my favorite advantage of video. I can record my session, focus on specific criteria… making sure my mechanics (food delivery, timing, etc) are as sharp as possible. And then when I go back and review that video, I can catch any little signs that I need to be aware of when I plan my next session. “Oh, tossing the treat like that really slowed down my rate of reinforcement, maybe I should drop it closer next time.” Or “Gosh, his ears laid back every time the judge approached from the left, but not from the right. I should split that down a little more next session.”
Of course, the other huge advantage of video and internet technology is that it opens up a whole new world of coaching.
Because again, like me… you not only train by yourself, but there is also probably nobody qualified to coach you in your area (that both understands your goals and uses methods that are compatible with your philosophy). But with the whole internet at our fingertips, we can get coaching from a trainer anywhere in the world! Online classes bring top quality training and instruction right to your home.
But here comes the BUT…
“But if I train by myself, I don’t have anyone around to video me!”
Yup, me too. It’s a bummer, but not at all an insurmountable obstacle.
Here’s a secret… while I do own a video camcorder, I can’t ever remember to bring it with me. If I do bring it, I’ve almost certainly forgotten to charge the battery.
But you know what I do always have with me? My phone. And it’s the damnedest thing, but phones these days all have video cameras. WHICH IS SO AWESOME!
So here are a couple inexpensive tools that will lower the barrier and make it easier for you to take advantage of video in your training.
I got all of these things on Amazon. (Yay prime!) And not one of them cost more than $20
1. Inexpensive tripod with phone attachment. I like the gorilla pod-style, because it’s compact and portable, and I can attach to anything… which makes it easy for on the go training.
2. Clip on wide angle lens. Gives me a bigger area that my camera can capture.
3. Clip on LED light. My house tends to be very dark (old, small rooms, small windows, lots of trees), and a little extra light really makes all the difference. I’ve also noticed that a lot dog training facilities are poorly lit.
And on my list to purchase sooner rather than later? A bluetooth remote so I can trigger the video without having to stand next to my phone. (Another secret thing you didn’t know about me… I am always rushing, always clumsy, and have unusually powerful thumbs (prob all that clicker training). I actually had a bluetooth remote, but I broke it the first day before I ever got to use it… *sigh*)
So, there you go. NO MORE EXCUSES!
Your homework is:
1. Video your training sessions.
2. Review the video as soon as you are done.
3. Sign up for some online classes or coaching.
Don’t be shy. We are all dog people. Our houses are all always a disaster, and none of us brush our hair… just our dogs.