Dogs are learning all the time, even when we aren’t “training”.
- It is important to be aware of this so that you manage unwanted behavior.
- The more a dog practices an unwanted behavior the better they will be at it.
- Behaviors that are rewarded are repeated. Reward the behaviors that you like and they will occur more often.
Training-Preparation and Action
- Have a plan and a positive mindset.
- Set your criteria for your walk. What will you reward? How long will it be?When will it be time to go home based on your dog’s behavior?
- Or set criteria for the behavior you would like to train. Be specific like for a SIT the dog must have his or her bottom on the ground.
- Be ready to be flexible. Your dog and the environment are both changable so be prepared to adapt and change with them.
- It’s okay to end a training session early if things are not going as you planned.
Using food is the easiest and fastest way to reinforce your dog.
- It gives a boost of dopamine to help with learning by increasing pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation.
- Every piece of food (reinforcement) given to your dog is information that they are correct in the behavior that they are doing.
- It take a split second to hand your dog a piece of kibble vs a play session that may derail your walking focus.
Suggested Food for Reinforcement:
- Kibble – Used inside with little to no distractions.
- Soft Training Treats – Used for a behavior that requires more focus, with distractions.
- Hot Dogs – Outside in distracting environment with people.
- Cheese/ Crumbled Meatballs- For training with high distracting environment, perhaps with other dogs in the area.
High Rate of Reinforcement
- Don’t be stingy with your reinforcement. We need to provide feedback to our dogs that they are correct.
- We want our dogs to be correct in their choices- If they are making good decisions, we can reinforce it.
- Reinforcing a behavior makes it more likely to happen again!
Timing is Everything
- Reinforcement is a 2- step process: Give a slight pause between the marker and the delivery of the treat to your dog.
- Use your clicker or marker word first to mark the behavior, THEN deliver your treat.
- It is important that you do not squish the marker and the reward on top of each other so that the marker can delinate the behavior that earns the reward and not get lost in the yumminess of the treat.
****After your dog is competent with loose leash walking or any behavior, treats/reinforcement can be gradually decreased but never completely omitted. We call it a variable reinforcement schedule. However, we always ask that you reward your dog for his or her efforts. You work for a paycheck as a reward for your efforts. You wouldn’t go to work without it. Your dog’s “paycheck” is reinforcement. Treats, praise, petting, play, massage are all reinforces for your dog. Some have more power than others. Reinforce good walking habits with the most powerful reinforcer you have to “top up” behavior and add consistency. Always reinforce your dog for doing a good job… or the behavior may decrease in occurrence.
Have Fun with your Dog!!