Quick fixes often provide a temporary fix to any problem! But if you want real results, you'll work toward making slow steady progress based your dog's needs!
Slow in Adding Cues
Slow in Building Duration & Delayed ReinforcementFor many of us, we get stuck with our eyes on the prize or the end goal. We set or goals or see a list of things we want to accomplish and we jump straight there or move rapidly toward the goal. The faster we move in dog training, the greater the chances we have for struggles to set in. When we struggle is when we tend to look for ways to correct or punish the dog. Those harsher corrections based training can be totally avoided if we just slow down and move at the dog's speed. Each dog processes things a bit differently, so one dog might learn a basic concept more easily and progress rapidly while another dog needs a bit more practice and smaller baby steps in training.
If you follow my FB page, you've seen picts and reference to the Husky Boys, which are 3 brothers that I've been working with since they were quite young. While the genetics of these pups came from the same place as littermates that live in the same household, they are all very individualized. Sammy moves at slower pace, thinking before he does anything but catches on very quickly. Eli needs a bit more time to look around and see what others are doing which means he kinda just goes with the flow wherever he can and is more easily distractable. Eli doesn't like to make mistakes, so he likes to make sure he knows what your asking for before he attempts to do it. Then there's Charlee! LOL Charlee learns new behaviors real quick, but he also forgets new behaviors real quick. He's typically first to respond, but that means he will keep throwing out random behaviors that you've asked for in the past hoping that something will eventually earn him the cookie. When it comes to navigating the environment, Charlee is the type to rush in guns a blazing or ready to handle anything. But when it comes to strangers, Charlee is more likely to sit back and see what his brothers or Roz do. Sammy the slower paced one is more eager to make friends with everyone, both human and dog.
You may be wondering what an evaluation of the Husky Brothers has to do with training cues. This is a unique situation where all 3 dogs have the same genetics and live in the same house so they get the same amount of exposure to the world, the same amount of training time and exercise, and have the same daily household routine. Yet when they are learning new skills they need a bit of a different approach. Slower paced Sammy, even though he wants to always be right in the behavior he offers, can actually learn more quickly with some delayed reinforcement. When we teach heel we start with reinforcing getting in position, then one step, then two steps, 3 steps, 5 steps, 10 steps, etc. Sammy moves through those steps more rapidly being successful at 10 steps rather quickly. Eli on the other hand needs a bit more reinforcement along the way to keep him focused meaning he spent a ton more time practicing at 5 steps then Sammy needed. Eli needed that reinforcement more rapidly or he lost focus. Charlee learned the cue much more rapidly for heel, yet he's still the one the struggles with it the most because if the rate of reinforcement is spread out too far, Charlee will start throwing out other behaviors like jumping, barking, or switching sides in an attempt to earn faster reinforcement.
This individualized difference is why we don't add cues until the dog is doing well with the behavior. Otherwise we run the risk of giving the cue and the dog not being able to do the behavior because they are distracted, bored, frustrated, or simply don't know what that cue means yet. There is another common saying, "Name it when you love it!" which basically means, don't add the cue until the behavior is exactly what you want your dog to be doing. This might only take 1-3 training sessions for some dogs while it takes 4-6 for others. Our puppy class is designed to help the owner and puppy make as much progress as possible without rushing them to hit a deadline or achieve a hard and fast standard by the end of the 6 sessions. The beauty of that is, most puppies that complete the class can easily exceed the national standards that are widely accepted for those basic behaviors plus the owners then know how to continue to increase those skills in a wide variety of environments and around distractions.