Now Kat watches for subtle movements in the body, a closed-mouth moment of concentration, or the fact that she does not have the dog's full attention. “Once you see the subtle occurrences, the mark-and-reinforce process goes quickly, but you need to start with something to click.” Using shaping as an example of a skill she still hones, Kat reveals that “to go from a dog passively standing still to one waving at you after just 15 minutes looks like magic, because it is. Clicker training is an amazing philosophy.”
When Kat works with dogs (and their people) involved in sports and competition, she can rely on her own personal experiences in those areas. “I started clicker training when I was involved with sports because I thought there had to be a better way to train behaviors.” The biggest difficulty of this kind of training, according to Kat, “is maintaining a level of precision and endurance as a weekend trainer.” Like herself, most of the human halves of the competition teams have day jobs, and must do “more formal training in a single class and on weekends.” An invaluable tool that Kat uses and recommends to her students is some form of a log to record progress, next steps, “what needs precision or speed or distance, what's broken, what's working, and more.” She shares her spreadsheet model that has behavior rows along the left margin and columns with the date and goals for that training session across the top. In each cell, she records data and observations about training progress. “With that information, you can create a valuable training plan for your goals. It is easier to see the smaller pieces needed to make the picture-perfect precision behaviors that needed to get high scores.” The log information targets the areas where competitors should be focusing training time. “It's more reinforcing to practice skills that are working instead of the skills that aren't,” says Kat.
In her work with trainers crossing over to the positive philosophy, Kat again goes back to her own experiences when she moved to clicker training. She knows that “the hardest thing in the world to get rid of is the automatic pop movement; the wrist-flick/bicep-flex of a well-timed, choke-chain collar pop stays in the body for years.” With the surety that crossover trainers aren't being obstinate during the learning process, Kat is patient and understanding. Considering the rejection of the “pop” muscle memory as an analogy for “moving from a forceful mindset to a respectful mindset” helps Kat educate her crossover clients. “In addition to changing a memorized muscle movement in response to leash pressure, crossover trainers need to learn to see small success,” she explains. “Learning to see the smaller, ‘good’ pieces before ‘failure’ means seeing the click point. Once you see the click point, you don't need corrections.” While it takes concentrated effort to get there, Kat helps her clients learn to “release into the point of success and never see the point of failure.”
It is not just professionally where Kat implements KPA lessons successfully. “I'm much clearer in all of my communications now. Instead of using subtle signals or expecting someone to read my mind, I state things much more clearly.” The TAGteach portion of the KPA DTP program has helped Kat think in clear, small steps. Recently, she hired contractors to work on her house.