If you understand the formula for teaching your dog, you can teach them absolutely anything. It’s easy, it just takes consistency!
Before you start, you need to be clear about TWO things.
First thing: What is the behaviour you would like to teach? Be specific and know exactly what your desired end result is.
Second thing: What word, sound and/or sign will you use as a cue for this behaviour? It’s worth agreeing on this with the family before you start teaching so you’re all on the same page.
Now, you can get started.
- Start working on capturing the behaviour. This is a game! You can lure your dog with a treat or toy or you can wait until they do it naturally, for example, a sit will happen naturally many times throughout the day, you just need to be observant!
- Mark and reward all of the behaviours you’re happy with to begin with. So, if it’s a sit cue you’re working on, reward all of the sits, regardless of when they occur. This shows your dog you like what they’re doing.
- When your dog is happily and regularly exhibiting the behaviour and enjoying the game with you, name that behaviour. Say the word, make the sound or show the sign, followed by the prompt you’ve been using to lure your dog.
- Keep repeating this until your dog is responding to the cue at least six out of ten times.
- Then, start to only reward the cued responses and reduce any other assistance. So, if you ask your dog to sit & they sit, reward them… but reduce rewards for sitting without the cue.
- Practice the cue in different situations, with different rewards and different people. When your dog is responding fabulously regardless of the distractions, you can start to only reward and reinforce the best responses. There’s no harm in throwing in spontaneous rewards too, we all like a ‘well done’ when we’ve done as we’ve been asked!