Dog training is very similar to learning to play a sport. Can you become a great basketball player by simply watching Tristan Thompson on television? Sadly not.
This is also true for dog training, where skills and time are only learned through practice and good technique.
The proper technique is essential when you are teaching your dog a new command or trick. Additional body movement usually confuses a dog, leading to loss of attention and frustration. Here are my top five tips to make sure your dog understands it.
1. Place your hands in a neutral position
Keep both hands aligned with your waist. Just move your hand away from the neutral position if you are delivering a treat or signage.
2. Always bend your knees
Bending the knees gives your dog a visual signal at eye level that a food reward is directed towards him. Bend your knees so that your extended treatment hand reaches your dog’s mouth without having to bend over.
3. Keep your back straight
When training, try to keep your back straight. Your back should remain upright while squatting (bending your knees) to give you a gift. Not only is it good for our posture, it also prevents us from entering the dog’s space. Dogs can be confused with people who lean, “Does my human want me to lick his face, back off or play?” Some dogs may perceive that leaning over them is also a threat.
4. Training: click, pause, right
Make sure your gift hand is perfectly still in the neutral position. At the moment your dog performs the command you want, you must click on the click, pause and then straighten your arm with the reward directly to your dog’s mouth, releasing the reward. There needs to be a different pause between when you click and when you move your reward arm to deliver the treat.
Moving your hand towards the reward bag or towards your dog’s mouth before clicking (or at the same time as the click) will teach your dog to do something only if he thinks he will be rewarded. Keep your hand very still until you have clicked.
5. Fast reward delivery – BAM!
When you deliver your treat, straighten your arm as quickly as possible towards your dog’s mouth. If you move too slowly, your dog may start jumping to get the reward. Then, return your hand to a neutral position.
I recommend video recordings to see how closely he imitates the correct technique. A good dog trainer can guide you through the previous process to help improve your technique and the effectiveness of your training. Happy training!