Every time I start a young horse or train a puppy, I get inspired. It reminds me to take breaks often and reward just as much and BIG. “That was so great, it’s the best thing I’ve seen anyone ever do!!” The babies need to feel how thrilled you are that they did something – no matter how basic (in your eyes). It’s great to be specific, but once they do what we asked, we need to tell them. A more experienced animal doesn’t need the same kind of constant feed back.
What is even more important though, is the lovely breaks… The snuggles, the reassurances, the “you did so good”s. Think about how many little breaks you had in Kindergarten. Nap time! Snack time! Play time! Sitting and drawing time! Constant rests…
It’s a time to clear their head and actually digest what they learned. Other wise it builds up and learning becomes this unbeatable task. How will they know what you want from them? That’s what we have to keep asking ourselves: How can I make this more clear? How can I make it easier to understand (not easier to do – but to understand. Know the difference!) I’m also more willing to use a cookie every now and then with a baby. As the animal gets older or simply advances through training, I expect more and don’t feel the need to constantly rest or reward the basics. I ask them to do something and they do it – just like you don’t need to reward a 12 year old child for putting their clothes on by themselves!!
I love working with the youngsters. It gives me a chance to really brush up on my patience and clearness. Breaking everything down to basic movements can be refreshing! It makes me think about what I’m really trying to achieve with an animal: how do I want them to be in a few years? Working towards that and starting with a “new slate” is very inspiring.