Timing plays a crucial role in training your dog successfully. As trainers, we must maintain precise timing because our dogs often engage in multiple activities simultaneously, making it challenging for them to discern the specific behavior they’re being rewarded for. Additionally, there are instances when we take a few seconds before delivering the reward for the behavior, compounding the difficulty.
The quicker we can reward our dogs for their trained behavior, the sooner they will grasp the concept. This is why trainers employ a “reward marker,” typically a brief word like “yes” or the “click” from a clicker, to establish a connection between the behavior and the treat the dog receives.
Initially, we’ll teach your dog that “click” signifies a forthcoming treat. In this way, “click” becomes the link between the action and the treat.
“Click” equals treat, followed by the command, then “click,” which also equals a treat.
Your dog will soon begin attempting various behaviors to elicit that “click.” Initially, it’s essential to promptly follow the “click” with the treat; however, as you progress, you can extend the duration.
When instructing the reward marker, it’s advisable to have a bag of treats readily available, eliminating the need to search for them and saving valuable time. Additionally, ensure you don’t reward undesirable behaviors, such as jumping or nipping.
As you advance with the training, strive to keep your pup in the designated “click” position and release the treat at precisely the right moment. If your pup becomes overly excited and shifts position upon hearing the “click,” entice them back into place with the treat and then provide it directly into their mouth. This approach prevents your dog from receiving a reward for an undesired action, helping them become more attuned to their body and the behaviors you’re teaching.
Another effective method to enhance your timing as a trainer doesn’t involve dogs directly. You can try this exercise when your dog is not present: bounce a tennis ball and either use the “click” or say “yes” each time the ball makes contact with the ground. This exercise will help sharpen your observation skills just before you begin training your dog. This enables you to pinpoint the exact moment when your dog’s rear touches the ground for “sit” or when their elbows reach the ground for “down.”
It’s essential to remember that training your dog should be an enjoyable experience for both you and your furry companion. If your dog seems to be struggling or not grasping a concept, it’s perfectly fine to allow your dog to take a break and resume training in a few hours. With diligent and patient training, your dog might even end up starring in a video, just like the one mentioned earlier!
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