We don't get the behavior we want, we get the behavior we train.
The dog is never wrong. They are behaving as they have learned to behave.
Follow these tips to make sure you train the behavior that you want.
Use a *High Rate of Reinforcement*
High Rate of Reinforcement means giving a LOT of treats in a SHORT amount of time.
One of the most common mistakes that people new to positive reinforcement training make is being stingy with treats. This is usually because they don’t want their dog to become “treat dependent” (will only work for treats). Ironically, the opposite is true.
The MORE generous you are with treats in the early stages of training, the FASTER you will be able to fade out the treats. That is because you are building the value of the behavior itself! It makes the behavior FUN for your dog so that very soon, the behavior itself is its own reward!
Use High Value Treats
Behavioral Economics: Is the paycheck given worth the effort exerted to earn it?
Your dog decides what is high value. If they happen to not really like hot dogs, then hot dogs are not a high value reward for them. Remember that the goal is to build drive for following the cues. We build drive with excitement, so make sure you are using a treat that your dog gets excited about.
Keep training sessions short and fun
Both you and your dog should be enjoying the process. It's a fun activity with your dog and not a dreaded chore. If either of you are frustrated, bored, or annoyed, stop and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us help you figure it out.
Frustration usually comes from lack of success. If your dog isn't getting it, make it easier:
Move to an area with fewer distractions
Shorten the duration (less time holding the position)
Shorten the distance (move closer to them)
Increase the value of the reinforcer (get better treats)
Practice your timing (marking the right behavior at the right time and then delivering the treat) - Do this without your dog at first so they don't get confused.
Remember to praise!
Be clear and consistent
A cue (command) can only mean ONE thing. Down cannot mean lie down on Tuesdays and get off the couch on Thursdays.
Only say a cue one time. If your dog doesn't respond right away, wait a few secconds to give them a chance, then help them out by showing them what you want (hand signal). If they aren't getting it, talk LESS - not more.
Slow down, stand up straight, and breathe!
Never punish your dog for something he or she does not know.
Don't give up!
If we had a dollar for every student who said, "my dog WON'T lie down!"... Of course they will, they aren't horses! Even horses lie down eventually, but you get the idea.
If your dog doesn't do something you ask, don't throw your hands up and quit. Dogs learn real fast who they can get away with things with (like kids do with grandparents)! Dogs do what works, and if blowing you off works, that's what they will do. Be patient, and make the behavior easier if your dog is struggling.
Positive does not mean Permissive
Training with positive reinforcement is not hippy-dippy idealistic mumbo-jumbo. It is rooted in solid Behavioral Science. Behavior is created by consequences - not by cues. Put simply, if a behavior works it will continue. If it doesn't work, it will stop. If a child touches a hot stove, the consequence is painful so they don't repeat that behavior. If they throw a tantrum in the store and the consequence is they get a new toy, they will repeat that behavior because it worked!
Your dog will follow a cue (command) for one of two reasons: 1) to avoid something unpleasant (shock, jerk of the leash scolding, spankng, etc.) or 2) to get something good (treat, toy, play, petting, praise, etc.) The secret to an obedient dog is controlling the consequences so that the behavior you want gets stronger and the behavior you don't want ceases. Positive reinforcement training builds drive for the behaviors you do want better than any other method. Bonus - a better relationship with your dog!
End each training session with play or a sniff walk
The more excied our dog is about working for us, the stronger their work ethic will be. Leave them with a great positive imporession of training by ending with a short play session, or let them sniff around. Play tug or fetch or simply jolly up your dog with excited happy talk, praise, and petting.