“It’s simple, but not easy.”
That is one of the things we hear from Bob over and over again, and it is something we discover for ourselves many times during each training day. The principles we are applying are few and simple. The process is quite another story. It is, first of all, mentally very demanding, requiring multiple focus; mechanically very demanding, requiring split-second decision-making, timing, and accuracy in placing the food reinforcement. In addition, although Bob, correctly in my opinion, strongly recommends keeping emotion out of the training process, it can be very stressful, and emotionally taxing when working under very strict time constraints as we are. What we are doing here also requires strong social and communication skills, and adabtability both in terms of our inward and outward behavior since we are working with new partners each week who have different personalities, different skill levels, and likely come from a different country and culture, and speak a different native language than we do,
And it’s all about changing OUR behavior in order to change the animals’ behavior from what we don’t want to what we do want. The chickens are really a vehicle for training ourselves, and it is about so much more than getting chickens to do specific behaviors.
And all of the above relates to blogging as well, as I am discovering. Day after day I have said to myself “you have to write something today”, then dithered about what to write and how to write it until there is no time left. Then I beat myself up a bit (as if I have not been doing that all day every time I make a mistake in training), and go to sleep vowing to write something tomorrow for sure. I started to write this days ago, finished it, and when I tried to publish it the internet connection was interrupted, and I lost a big part of it that had not yet been saved. So, I am going to write some sort of a conclusion, publish it, and write more tomorrow.
Two days ago on Sunday we concluded the fourth week, Chaining. For me it was the most satisfying week so far because I felt that a lot of what I learned and practiced during the previous three weeks came together. However, it was not easy or stress-free. By the end of the day Friday I had concluded that I was the worst trainer in the world, and was, quite honestly, very depressed. I decided to find a private place and take five minutes to have a good cry. As it happens I did not succeed in finding that private place, so never had the cry. Instead I came up with a “cunning plan” (BlackAdder fans will know about “cunning plans”) to solve a problem that both my chickens were having on one part of the assignment (part of the reason I was the worst trainer in the world) . Saturday morning I put my plan into action, and it worked with both chickens! Based on that I elevated my status to “not the worst trainer in the world”, and managed to maintain that status through the end of the course – yay!
I have uploaded a video of last week’s “final performance” for both my chickens, and as soon as I can edit it I will post it here. In the meantime, I am exhausted, and it is past time to go to sleep if I expect to be at all able to function tomorrow.