We train for Perfection and achieve Excellence
So today I would like to talk about five crucial topics in dog training, Teaching, Training, Proofing, Correction and Reward. Three of these are stages of training and two of these are necessary in the process of training. Lets start off with the stages!
Dog Training is done in 3 stages; Teaching, which is the process of showing the dog what action you want them to do and this is done by luring the dog through this action. This is all reward and baby steps until they understand the action, no pressure and no distraction.
Step two is Training, they now know the action you want, now you stop luring and begin the training. This is where the verbal command and hand signals are solidified and you begin improving the action. You train them to perform quicker and more sharply, more consistently. You train for Perfection.
Then comes Proofing, step three, and now that the dog knows and can perform the action without hesitation we begin to lay on distraction. We start small, someone moving around you and the dog while you give commands and give corrections when the command isn’t followed and rewarding heavily when it is, and eventually stepping the distraction up and up until your performing in noisy parking lots. This concretes the whole process, the dog learns not only is it incredibly fun and rewarding to perform the commands and work with you, it’s equally unpleasant to do otherwise. This is where you achieve Excellence.
Now, Correction and Reward. Correction is often confused with other things, a lot of people don’t understand the line between correction and abuse and because of that, others have become very shy of any correction at all. Thus all Positive training. The important thing to remember about correction is that it must be timed exactly and given and forgiven quickly. The moment you carry on with correction beyond what is necessary to make a point, it’s no longer a correction. If it lasts for more than a couple seconds, you are no longer training. You give a correction immediately, and then you move on and soon thereafter you must find a reason to reward equally. All corrections must be followed by reward.
Onto Reward! Reward should only be given for an action or behavior you want the dog to perform. Never…I repeat, Never, reward the dog when they fail to perform an action or behave negatively. If you ask your dog to sit, they do not get a reward until they sit, and the moment you do reward a failed action all training goes out the window. Even if you have to baby them through the action, never reward a failed action…and always end on a success.
There is a balance between Reward and Correction, you must have both to be successful in training. Think of Reward as power, energy, or drive, and think of Correction as control. You can have all the Power, all the Energy, all the Drive, but without control its absolutely useless. Its unpredictable and unmanageable. Its like lightning, its amazing and powerful…and completely useless and dangerous, as opposed to the controlled electricity that powers your home. But too much control is just as bad…or even worse than too little control. It’s a balance, and its something you will be dealing with for the life of your dog.
Oh and one more thing, many people think that you reward until you have a “trained dog” and then stop. Well, there is no such thing as a “trained dog” they are in training their whole life, and you never stop rewarding unless you wish to stop receiving the obedience you worked for. You wouldn’t work if you stopped getting paid.