As a teacher, I never started a lesson with the hardest concept. I started with a reminder of previously learned, related material and then moved up to the newer and more challenging concepts.
The idea of a “warm up” applies to dog training as well. When I compete in rally, Sulu and I would warm up, practicing “doodles,” various easy rally moves in the sideline to help him get focused and ready. The right warm-up can be critical on determining whether the training session will be successful or a dud.
The right warm up also depends on the training goals and context. When I’m taking Nigel out to work in a complex environment, my goals at the moment are often focused on loose leash walking and calm behavior. He’s an energetic adolescent, so a great warm up often involves some physical activity. Walking on a few benches in a quiet area, a sniff break and then some circles or even jogging next to my wheelchair before approaching busier or more complex areas helps. If I’m training something new, the warm up usually involves asking for some really easy known behaviors.
When I’m working with Sulu, who is four years old, I can get away with a very brief warm up, even in a complex environment. Often just a sniff break and asking for a sit will do it. I still allow for some type of “getting into gear” time, as I need it myself. How many of us need to get a coffee or drink before we get ready to answer our emails?
What type of warm-up activity works well for your dogs? Your client’s dogs?