We started training Gibson in October, 2019 and since then have come up with some quick tips to remember as you train with your kitties! These aren't things you have to follow as you train but just a helpful guide of things we've learned worked for us.
Training at set times. Even though Gibson is generally highly food motivated I still find that it helps when we train before meal times. I choose these times for obvious reasons; he's most food motivated at this time! Also, when he expects to train at these routine times he's actually so ready that he sits by his treat cupboard and meows to remind me it's time for Cat School. I watched a live chat on Instagram with @Basepaws and feline-only licensed vet tech, Ellen (@thecatlvt) and she even mentioned that "cats need routine as the more routine you keep them in, the [better]". It makes sense to have a routine with training and I have found to be more successful with maintaining one with training, though, it's not always completely necessary depending on your cat's personality! I sometimes train with Gibson sporadically throughout the day if I detect that he is looking for some mental stimulation (he will pace and run around looking for things to do so then we end up training sometimes at these moments). If you are unsure as to what a bored kitty looks like, check out this article entitled "6 Signs You Have a Bored Cat".
Train with low-cal treats (and factor what you give them into their meal times). I have mentioned before the treats that we use for training in our post here. The ones that we often use are under just 0.17kcal PER TREAT - it's insanely awesome. When I do train with Gibson, I will slightly adjust the portions he gets for his meal times so that we are avoiding unnecessary weight gain occurs as I train him.
Introduce one new trick/skill and a few not yet mastered tricks/skills & maintain all other mastered tricks/skills every session. I don't like to overwhelm Gibson as we train otherwise he will get frustrated and discouraged. To avoid training becoming a negative experience for him I like to focus on a certain schedule as we learn. I often begin with some of his mastered tricks. Along the way I will mix in some not yet mastered tricks/skills, that one new trick/skill, and will often end with some more of his mastered tricks/skills. Consider it to be like the sandwich method of communication; when criticism needs to be delivered to someone it's sometimes "sandwiched" in between praises. Communication in this way will start and end positively and has proven to be an overall effective way of delivering criticism. I used to want to rush through training so that I could teach him all the things but realized that the sandwich method of training seems to work real well for Gibson!
Create a trick/skill list for reference. Make a visible list of all the tricks and skills your cat knows so that you can continue to practice those learned tricks and skills with them. You might find, like us, that you get to a point where you have to keep track of all your cat has learned otherwise, you will forget what you've taught them and they'll lose what they've learned because you didn't continue to practice it! We write down all that Gibson knows on a chalkboard which is located in the room where he normally trains for reference. These tricks are separated into 'Mastered', 'Not Yet Mastered', and "New".
Reach out to community to get inspired. Every now and then I will draw on blank on what to teach Gibson. On Instagram, I created a Training/Tricks Chat so that we can inspire one another with training ideas and keep one another on top of training! I find that the chat keeps me accountable in maintaining Gibson's skillset and introducing more things he has yet to learn.
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I'd love to hear about your tips on training! Feel free to message me on Instagram, email me, or drop a comment down below (just note that I cannot comment back but always read what you write).
xx Sarah & Gibson