As a society we tend to be reactive rather than proactive; we don’t put up a stop sign or a set of traffic lights until …
As a trainer I see the same problem when it comes to our relationship with our dogs; we tend to notice the undesirable behaviours rather than the desirable ones. We react when an undesirable behaviour occurs and ignore (or at best verbally praise) desirable behaviours … so which type of behaviour is more rewarding to the dog? Which type of behaviour is the dog more likely to repeat?
So what would happen if we started to notice and reward the DESIRABLE behaviours our dogs naturally and voluntarily offer? Obviously, we will still need to redirect and work with undesirable behaviours, however, what would happen if we began to notice and reward the desirable behaviours? Of course, the dog would begin to OFFER the desirable behaviours more often! Bingo, we then have a dog who can make good choices!
I refer to the above as rewarding for choices.
Although structured training sessions can be both fun and essential when teaching new skills, they encourage the dog to enter ‘training mode’, meaning that the dog understands that they should listen and be attentive during this time … but do they still continue to be as attentive and thoughtful when not in ‘training mode’? Generally no, and no one wants to stay in training mode all the time!
This is where having a dog who is able to make good choices is great!
So how do you start?
Begin by LOOKING for behaviours your dog naturally offers and reward these; your dog does the behaviour without being asked or ‘cued’.
Catch your dog in the act of being good!