Improving your timing in dog training (the fun way!) – Cambridge Puppy Training

you don't say

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be your dog? To see how your training sessions are viewed through his eyes? Sometimes you may become frustrated or exacerbated at your pups apparent disinterest or utter confusion in response to your cues and rewards. Well, I’m going to tell you a secret, you CAN see what your dog feels, and indeed see why he may not respond or seems confused, in your training sessions!

Often when we’re training, we believe we’re doing everything right, we’re doing exactly what we should be doing, and for some reason our dog/puppy just isn’t getting it! Whether that be a brand new cue you’re trying to teach, or a fairly established behaviour you’re trying to proof, as dog owners/trainers we’ve ALL had those days where we just give up. Indeed, sometimes it is best to abandon a training session rather get frustrated and annoyed and irate with your dog.

Would it not be nice to have a little more insight into how our dogs learn? If you could really understand how they learn, could you not tailor your training methods and techniques more effectively? We have treats, we have lure and reward training, we have criteria and schedules of reinforcement, we have verbal markers and clickers, we have all manner of equipment and scientifically proven techniques to aid in our training, but do we REALLY know how it feels to our dogs to learn? No, not really. Of course, we will never really be able to fully understand how a dog thinks, because alas we are merely human and quite inferior.

BUT, there is an interesting way of gaining some insight into how our dogs learn, think and perceive the things we do. “You don’t say!” is a game, for humans. I know, a game for humans showing us how dogs think?? Yes, absolutely! “You don’t say!” was developed by Karen Pryor for the Karen Pryor Clicker Training Academy (with Kay Lawrence) and can really help you gain understanding about where you may be going wrong, or simply how you can improve on your training now. You will see things from your dogs perspective, you may not be able to think exactly how your dog thinks, but you’ll gain a far better understanding of how and why training doesn’t always go to plan. You’ll also see why getting frustrated really doesn’t do anybody any favours at all.

Before you start, be sure you’re completely sure of how clicker training works. You can use a verbal marker instead of a clicker, for example ‘YES’, although studies have shown a clicker is more effective than a verbal marker due to it’s precision and neutral tone, we don’t need to be too fussy in this game! Remember, get the behaviour, mark the behaviour, reinforce the behaviour.

This is how the game works:

  • You, and one other person, will sit at a table and put some objects on the table ie. pencil, pen, rubber, stamps, can of drink, mobile phone
  • ONE of you will have a clicker (or use a verbal marker (VM) ie. ‘YES’)
  • Now, the aim of the person with the clicker (or VM) is to ‘train‘ the other person to perform certain tasks, via shaping, without saying a single word
  • For example, train the other person to pick up the pencil and put it on their head! Or, move the rubber to the other end of the table and place it down, or pick up the mobile phone and pretend to make a call!

So, for example, say I want to get someone to pick up the pen and put in on their head! To start, I would click when their hand went near the pen, this would then tell them the pen is where I want them to go! I would then click when their hand touched the pen, they may then try picking the pen up and again I would click, I would keep clicking every single right step they take until they have put it onto their head. If they make a wrong move, for example put it on their shoulder, I would simply not click and this would tell them this is not what I wanted.

It’s as simple as that! You will be surprised how much you can learn and how much it can improve your timing in marking behaviours, your confidence in your abilities to train, you’ll see improvements in the way you shape behaviours, and you’ll have fun as well! Enjoy!

For more information about anything discussed or the services I offer, just get in touch!



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