Puppies and Reward Based Training
Remember at school when teachers taught too slowly and you got bored and looked out of the window? Or they went too fast, left you behind and you were frustrated that you couldn’t understand. Or the lesson went on too long and you got tired and began to doodle instead of listening? Imagine, as well, that your teacher doesn’t even speak your language, looks really weird, and uses gestures you don’t understand either. It’s enough to put you off learning for life!
This can be very similar to a puppy’s first learning experience. You don’t speak their language, they don’t understand yours, and they haven’t yet learned to learn so they don’t yet realise that it's a great idea to try to do things for you so they can be rewarded.
So when it comes to training puppies, we need to make it really easy for them. Easy means small steps and easy actions, while keeping in mind they know nothing at first. Food can be used as a lure to encourage the actions you want, and if it is given as soon as the action happens, the puppy will want to repeat that action next time. Food delivery and praise have to be instantaneous as we have no other way to say ‘yes, you are right, well done’.
Lures and rewards need to be something the puppy wants. Usually that means food, and the food treats need to be meaty. Natures Menu treats are ideal because they are natural and won’t upset your puppy’s digestion. They can and should be broken down into small bite-sized pieces so less time is spent chewing and the puppy is not full up before the session is over. Keep sessions shorter than 3 minutes as baby brains tire quickly or get distracted.
Repeating the cue-lure-action-reward sequence over and over allows the puppy to make the necessary connections in the brain. Carried out in many different places with different things going on around you, your puppy will begin to understand and respond to cues given. So it is not surprising that the only cue that most pet dogs know is ‘sit’, which is repeated and rewarded by owners over and over in many different situation until the dog learns what it means. If you want your puppy to be really well trained, do this with all cues, such as come when called, walk to heel, and wait.
Reward-based training should be fun. Remember those times at school if teachers were boring or cross. Successful teachers make learning easy with a positive and friendly attitude. Little games and rewards make learning easy for dogs too – keep that tail wagging! If you are fun and friendly, your puppy will want to work with you and to stay learning until they become well-educated and responsive.
For more information about puppy training, please go to www.puppyschool.co.uk