Many people do not videotape their training. Ever. Not even when they have a specific issue.
At first, it might seem daunting. But if you have a smart phone, which 95% of us do, then you can prop it up against a chair or on books or something, and try video taping your work. A friend suggested putting it in a coffee cup – the perfect angle!
Almost everyone feels nervous when they video tape themselves. Good! That’s how you’ll feel at the dog show; stiff and hyper aware of every move you and your dog make. If you want to replicate that trial feeling you can do so at home easily with a video camera. And while you’re at it, you’ll be training your dog to accept that weird, stressed demeanor that you adopt at a competition. A win/win!
I’m not talking about editing or uploading or online classes that require video review. I’m talking about watching what you are doing. If you have not done that, you are in for an enormous eye-opener. It is the most important thing that I have added to my training in the last few years. I don’t do it all the time, but I do it often enough that I catch small errors that I don’t even know I’m making. If you have never done it, I can practically guarantee that you will be amazed at what you learn in your first five-minute video.
You will find things that you are doing much better than you expected, and you will find obvious errors. You will see that you are pushing too hard in some areas, and staying with well-known behaviors for too long. You will see where you are interesting and where you are boring. You will see signs of stress in your dog that you missed before and you may also notice a much happier dog than you were aware of. You will see the frustration that you didn’t know you were generating because of your rate of reinforcement, or choice of reinforcer, or your general skill level. You will see how often you stop paying attention to your dog; leaving them hanging with no idea of what to do next. You will discover how much you rely on external motivators. You will see where you flow correctly in your work, and where you fall down. And if you’re training for too long – wasting time and drawing out your work – you’ll discover that too.
You cannot change what you are unaware of. No need for a coach or special equipment at all. So if you are less than thrilled with your dog’s progress in his work, videotaping is the obvious first step.
Practicing poorly won’t progress your skills. If you have a problem and the video camera shows you that you have tried exactly one solution – which is not working – then you can use that information to select a new plan. Spend an extra ten minutes to videotape your work and a few more minutes to watch it. Now you’ll get somewhere, which will save you an enormous amount of time and frustration over the long run.