I recently attended a Behavior Clinic where we taught our dogs new behaviors using a technique called shaping which is where we rewarded our dogs for making the slightest attempt at the behavior we wanted.
What I LOVED about this training seminar was that everyone was happy, smiling and really positive as they changed their dogs behavior. Yes, that is right, we were getting new behaviors and everyone was happy!
So why is it when you teach your dog a trick like paw, high five, or roll over you get super excited when they make the right choice, “YES”, click, click “YES” as if one marker is not enough? Many of us repeat the marker due to our excitement! The dogs clearly get that they did something right because our feedback to them is exactly that: “positive and rewarding.” Many of you can’t stop there, you need to go show someone how smart your dog is, so you repeat the cue, your dog does the behavior and you again, shrill with “Yes” “Good Dog” and shower him with positive and rewarding feedback.
You must be smiling by now because you know this to be true! So, I want you to use the same positive feedback to reward your dog the next time you are working with him. The way I see it, behavior is behavior, and, although you may feel the need to be serious when asking for a specific behavior, your dog just knows you are tense and not as much fun. So, I ask you to be more fun, smile and make a big deal when your dog does any small behavior you like. I do think you will see a softer, happier dog that will be able to focus on you longer because you are relaxed, fun and rewarding to be with!
Can you still change your pitch while training? Yes, but make the “positive” much more exciting and rewarding!