Listen to Dana Tyson and I talk dog every Wednesday at 7:50AM. If you miss the broadcast, click here to listen to the podcasts. As always, we would love to hear from you. If you have a specific dog training issue you would like us to discuss on air, just shoot me an email!
This morning we discussed how important timing is when it comes to dog training. One of the things that make dogs so beautiful is their unbelievable ability to live in the moment. I learn from my dogs every day because they are all about the power of now! Dogs never concern themselves with what happened yesterday, they never, ever worry about tomorrow, and they never hold a grudge. Meanwhile, we humans waste all kinds of time and energy doing all of the above.
Since dogs live in the here and now, timing is of the utmost importance when it comes to training them. We literally have 1.3 seconds to catch them in the act. If we have missed the behavior by even 2 seconds, we are too late and the dog has moved on. Good or bad you must catch them in the act.
For example, let’s say you have just arrived home from a long day at work. Fido greets you at the door as usual; you give him some love and then head into the kitchen. As you walk into the kitchen, you are suddenly struck with the site of your trash can overturned and stinky trash and old food strewn across the floor. Meanwhile Fido, who has a full belly, has stretched out in his bed.
Immediately your energy completely changes. Dogs communicate through body language and they are expert observers of our behavior. They don’t speak or understand the English language. So Fido observes as your body tenses, you make threatening motions towards him, you shake things in his face, your start to yell, etc… Now Fido is confused and anxious. Yesterday, you praised him for sitting in his bed, today you punished him. What gives?
This doesn’t mean that dogs don’t have a memory. Of course they remember things. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to train them. However, they don’t back track into the past and you can’t reason with them through language. In order to teach them what you like or don’t like, you must catch them in the act. Any behavior that is consistently rewarded and/or reinforced will happen more frequently. Subsequently, any behavior that is ignored and/or punished will dissipate.
It is much easier to teach a dog by catching him doing something GOOD and telling him “YES!” than to constantly be saying “NO, NO, NO” all the time. How many times did you tell your dog “NO!” today? Start becoming an expert observer of your dog’s behavior and remember to say “YES!” and consistently praise Fido when you see him doing something you like. But don’t forget to live in the moment and always reinforce within 1.3 seconds!
“If dogs could talk, it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one.”
Certified Canine Trainer & Behavior Specialist
Professional Dog Training in Houston, TX