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  1. 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!


    My recent blogs have been giving you an insight into our beliefs and methods at SWAT. I have focused on the most common phrases that Jo and I are heard to say during nearly every session we teach.

    These ideas are invaluable  when you are deciding how you want to train your dog and therefore your training plan. But there are some key factors that can help make any training you do, even more effective.


    Firstly consider what message you are giving your dog when a mistake happens and you need to correct it. Where do you start the sequence? If your dog misses a weave entry, do you correct the entry or do you go back over the jump before it again? If you do the jump again what are you telling the dog?

    You are re doing a sequence because something has gone wrong. The dog needs to be clear what that was  - so you need to start exactly where it went wrong  .In the example above, this means starting at the weaves. Then when the dog has got that right, redo the whole sequence so you have a chance to perfect it when running it  in exactly the same way.


    Another example is a push round the back of a jump. If the dog doesn’t go round the back, try it again. Then redo the whole sequence. If you redo obstacles that were done correctly the first time, then the dog gets confused and will begin to think he needs to offer up another behavior on those as well!


    So next time you watch someone do the same sequence over and over again, because the dog is going wrong on the 4th obstacle - think what the dog is learning from the situation, and how much quicker it would understand if shown exactly which bit to change.


    Next time i will explain how to hit the jackpot :-)