1. Use an effective reward For some reason, we humans have a sense of pride around how “little” our dog needs to work for us. In reality, just because your dog will accept a piece of food from you, does not mean it is actually reinforcing that behaviour! Make sure you are matching the reward to the session (including level of distraction involved) Example: if you cleaned my whole house and I gave you $20 afterward, you probably wouldn’t refuse the $20 bill, but you certainly wouldn’t be signing up to clean my house again. And yet, if you simply picked up a snack wrapper and put it in the trash, you would probably be thrilled to get $20 for that. So the next time you try to use a piece of fruit or a dry cookie to “reinforce” a behaviour, and it doesn’t seem to be working…. Give your dog a raise! When training a new behaviour, or working in a new environment, try using liver or cheese instead of kibble. 2. Practice ‘clean’ training Are you rewarding what you think you’re rewarding? Clean training can help provide clear communication to your dog. It can involve:
Using a reward marker - in class, we encourage you to say "YES" when the dog does the behaviour
Practicing your timing to ensure you are marking the exact moment you want to reinforce
Being mindful of any inadvertent communication that might muddy your intended message (chit chatting at your dog, body language, accidental hand signals, reaching for the treat too early)
Giving clear cues – ONE at a time. Don’t repeat your cues or give a verbal and a hand signal at the same time. Give your verbal cue once, then pause and let your dog have a few moments to think. If they don’t respond then go ahead and give your hand signal.
3. Keep it short While classes may be 1 hour long, notice we only spend a few minutes on each behaviour. The length of your training session might depend on what you’re working on, but in general shorter is better. If you’re practicing recall on a long line, let your dog sniff and play for a few minutes then recall them, reward, and send them back to play. This will be more effective than either waiting until a distraction is present or standing in one spot doing recalls until your dog gets bored and checks out. Try out these tips for your next training session and let us know how it goes!