Canine coaching needn’t be over complicated and we can all be dog trainers if we try. Here’s why teaching your dog something new doesn’t require genius.
To teach your dog something new you simple need to motivate him, set him up to succeed and reinforce the lesson. Anyone can do these three things with practice, if you have a dog next to you whilst reading this, why not practice today?
We must make learning worthwhile for the dog. Motivation is paramount to quick and enjoyable canine coaching. When did you last do something that took effort, without being motivated by something else? When did you diet without being motivated by fitting in your jeans, when did you work without being motivated by your payday?
Effort without motivation is miserable for us and will be miserable for your dog too. Lack of motivation leaves the brain switched off. The lack of a decent end-result means that we don’t feel like putting in any effort and it’s the same for our dogs.
So, test, practice and ask your dog what motivates him, then use it.
Good canine coaches know the importance of success. Learning should include no option to get it wrong, particularly early in the process. Getting it right raises confidence which creates a feeling of well-being and increases motivation.
When we set the dog up for success we naturally shape the environment and the lesson. We don’t allow the dog to get it wrong and we reward him for getting it right. We do this by never asking too much too soon and by breaking down the lesson into manageable and rewarding chunks. The result is a keen, happy, motivated and confident dog.
This is the opposite of allowing a dog to get it wrong and then trying to grasp back his confidence, which puts the session on a naturally downward spiral. This is also why the best canine coaches have a clear, well thought out plan when teaching a dog something new.
Reward and Reinforce
When the dog has got it right we reinforce and strengthen the behaviour by delivering the reward.
Anything that is reinforced will be repeated. Reasonable repetition is conductive to learning. If a dog gets it right a couple of times, end that session there. if you keep asking him to repeat the same thing that he already got right, you will cause confusion. Two or three correct repetitions and stop, reward and reinforce.
You can use these three steps to teach your dog anything new. They can even be used to teach a behaviour that can then replace an unwanted behaviour, such as giving a paw instead of jumping up. Eventually the act that we motivate, reward and carefully teach will become the only act there is and the less useful one will become extinct.
Canine coaching is a fine mixture of learning for both of you, with lots of fun practice.