How to optimize our commercial training sessions
Published on February 9th, 2017
I see many commercial trainers that are just starting out (and some that take time in getting started) asking for extra trouble and work by not optimizing their sessions. Training is a very vocational profession and it is often those who dedicated themselves to it that tend to look for training only in the technical area, that is, how to teach the dog, however in commercial training, like in any professional field, you must have some optimization keys to avoid having to work more in situations we have created ourselves.
Of the three variables of commercial success: quality of work, customer satisfaction and optimizing time, I will focus this article on the last, how to optimize training time? Here are a few clues.
- Train the call from the first day: If you train the call from the first day, you will see the potential problems that may arise beforehand and will be increasing the volume of work on the most important exercise training in commercial training.In my opinion this is a fundamental point, the call is often the most problematic command and it is usual to start initial training with the simplest actions (sit, down..) and teach the call after several sessions with the other actions. As a result we often have to extend the training to finish training the call, more sessions that we could have saved if from day one we had given it training time. We must invest in what matters – what dog doesn’t sit or lie down as bad as the training is?None!, but don’t spend too much time on it, go directly to the core.
- If something in particular does not come off, don’t get obsessed: If the training goes well and the dog gets stuck on something concrete, it is best to leave that action for a few days.One of the best ways to stretch good training to infinity and beyond is getting obsessed when we fail to make the dog perform the actions we have to teach it (perhaps the action that most happens with is lying down).This is where many trainers get concerned and focus the sessions on “solving the problem,” this is a serious mistake: you can make both you and the dog nervous, neither will think clearly, thus exacerbating the problem at each session, you can generate learning blocks in the dog (and you). Remember that the whole is stronger than its parts, if the dog sees clarity in teaching and achieves results it will be more willing to learn and perform other actions that are less easy or comfortable, at the end of the day during a successful training session the dog is learning to learn.
- Work on the dog’s concentration before the behavior: The first thing you have to achieve is that the dog has a sufficient level of concentration in class, do whatever is necessary: take it to a quiet place, use a disruptive stimulus when it is distracted… but do not work an unfocused dog.When doing commercial training it is difficult to devote two or three full sessions to only teaching concentration and not behavior, it seems that you’re wasting your time and do not progress, this false perception is our enemy: if the dog is not focused, its learning is slower and lower in quality, it will be dependent on all the help that you give to get the behavior and will never try to achieve the action, training will become much longer for you with those two or three sessions and will be lower in quality. Believe me, everyone has gone through this error at first (and some have failed to overcome it.)
- Split the session into three parts: Do not put forward a session of forty minutes or an hour, think of three sessions of ten to fifteen minutes separated by a few minutes break.You have to “squeeze” every session so that your expense of time does not end. We all know that the best training sessions are very short, ten or fifteen minutes, which is commercially viable (especially if you work at home), so most professionals opt for sessions of between half an hour and one hour of work, the problem is that these long sessions tend to work with the criteria and techniques used for optimal sessions (of ten or fifteen minutes), lengthening the sessions is possible in dogs that are used to working, but a dog that is brought to commercial training will never have that habit, so the results are concentration and quality loss in its behavior.You must put each session forward as the sum of three different sessions and with concrete objectives: The first part with all the actions you are teaching except the call, not having to do the calls will prevent the dog from running out of energy when coming (many dogs of customers do not have a suitable physical condition) and provide the concentration to be maintained within the area of social care. After this first part a short break and we dedicate the second part to the call, as the dog comes to assist us and already has it in mind to work with us it will be much easier, we use the technique we use and belong to the current training to which we belong. The third part is dedicated to stays (stay, go), the dog is more tired mentally and physically, so it’s a good time to make progress in this area. It seems easy and obvious, and it is.
- Control bodily aids: Ideally, it is the customer who trains their dog under our instructions, but if for any reason (training in residence, inability of the owner …) we are the ones who do it we have an added risk that can really drag out the work: bodily aids.It’s easy to help the dog without realizing it, by accompanying the movement we teach with our body, this is not a problem if we are aware of doing it in a precise moment in which the dog needs extra help progressing, but if it becomes something involuntary it can happen that the dog associates the action more with our movements than with the command. For almost any trainer with the minimum experience, it is easy to lead a dog with the body (in fact the problem is when you come to a test and do it involuntary), but these movements, so natural to the professional are imperceptible to the owner, who normally stands still like a stick repeating the command. Has it happened that you have to tell a customer “not like that, don’t be so rigid, does it help the dog out at all”?Because you’re spending more time than expected because of your poor planning: You have taught the dog bodily commands and now you have to teach them to the owner, or get rid of them in the dog, in any case: double work. Train without bodily aids (or keep them to a minimum and always remember that they are a scaffold which you must quickly remove) from the first day. If you already have the bad habit of doing them and you don’t notice them, record it on video and when you see it (it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s worth it) note all the involuntary aids that you do and eliminate them. You’ll surely save three or four sessions.
- Properly evaluating the frequency of the sessions: One of the most common reasons that make us need an excessive number of sessions is that they are too frequent or too infrequent.If you train the dog every day you’re not giving it time to consolidate the progress; you’re building on wet cement! Thus you will need more sessions for the same result, remember that learning is a complex process that restructures the dog on many levels, including neurologically. Have you never been to one of these intensive workshops when on the third day you can’t take in any more information? Well the same thing happens to dogs. But if you separate sessions too much, you will have to devote some of your time to regaining the level of the previous session so that you are also working double. Although every dog has its rhythm, three sessions a week is a safe bet to not overwork it.