I explained in my last blog how we ensure that our dogs know which part of a sequence they got wrong so we can easily correct it. Dogs are very quick to learn if they are given the right information and reinforcement.
So how can we make it clear that our dog has got it right or wrong when we are training new behaviors?
I liken my dogs to my children in that they learn very easily when they are given clear instructions, goals and rewards. Consistency is key. Lily has been learning to add numbers between 1 and 10. When i asked her " 2+3= " and she said 6, how did i react?
I didn’t get cross or despondent.
I didn’t say well done and reward her!
I didn’t say “2+3=” over and over again…. she would have continued to say 6 - but probably a little louder as she got frustrated with me!
I simply said “oh not quite, try again”. So she did.
, “4?”, “not quite”, “5?” “YES!!!” and lots of praise and reward. Happy Lily and happy mummy :-)
She learnt quickly with no frustration because i gave her feedback and rewarded her consistently when she got it right.
It is exactly the same for your dogs. You need to give them feedback on what they are doing or they will get frustrated / bored and learn slowly. When i train my dogs i will reward the correct behaviour, but i will jackpot the perfect behaviour! So if i am using treats, one treat if ok, 5 small treats if perfect! With a toy, a short tug or throw if good, lots of play for 5 mins if perfect. I also make sure when i jackpot that i am very vocal and excited to make it even clearer how happy i am.
But I also make it clear when i am not happy just as i do with the kids. “try again” in a neutral tone is all it takes - this is sometimes referred to as a negative mark command - I don’t see it as being negative, but as giving feedback. People and dogs don’t learn without feedback, it is how you give the feedback that makes the difference!
Think about how you react when a friend, colleague or family member gets something wrong. Do you anger easily? get frustrated? Coax them along? encourage?
When you see how you react to teaching people, you can improve your technique when you teach your dog. Each of my dogs has a different personality , and as such each has a different feedback technique. But all of them know how to try again - happily - and how to earn the jackpot!