1. Not rewarding enough
In training we call this the reinforcement rate. When a dog is first starting to learn new behaviors, we want to pay them highly and pay them well for anything they do right.
- Feed your dog for attention or eye contact
- If you are teaching a new behavior, like a spin, give your dog a treat for moving in the right direction even if the behavior isn’t completed yet.
- Once they get a new behavior for the first time you can give them a jackpot with a few treats in a row.
2. Feeding things you don’t like
Dog’s are always learning. Anytime you give your dog food for something they are likely to repeat that behavior, so make sure you are only feeding your dog when they are doing things you want.
Ex. If you are teaching a dog to spin and they get confused and sit down instead, don’t feed them for the sit. Try again and reward them for starting to spin instead of putting their butt down.
3. Not changing the reinforcement rate:
While a dog is learning something new we want to feed them well and often, but once they know a behavior it is actually detrimental to feed them one treat for one behavior in a predictable pattern.
Try mixing up the reinforcement rate instead:
- Sometimes they get a treat
- Sometimes they don’t
- When they do something really awesome they get a jackpot!
This will keep the training interesting for them and also start to prepare them to do behaviors without food rewards, which can really help with real world distractions.
*Bonus* Mistake 4 and trainer troubleshooting tips:
Trying to force it when your dog doesn’t care about the treat.
If your dog turns their head away when you try to entice them with treats or is generally not interested, repeatedly putting food in their face won’t change how they feel. Here are some different things you can try:
- Use something of higher value (ex. Instead of using kibble, try using pieces of chicken breast or cheese, but make sure to rip them into very tiny pieces so they aren’t getting a ton of extra calories)
- Go somewhere with lower distractions where your dog is really comfortable
- Take a break from the training for a few minutes while your dog sniffs around and gets more comfortable. You can try again a few minutes later, if there is still no food drive I would save the training for later.
Happy training and if you need any assistance please reach out! We would love to help you with all of your training needs.
In addition to practice, you must also take the advice of the trainers who have instilled the new fancy bells and whistles on your dog.
Getting your dog professionally trained then putting them back into the same environment that caused the issues in the first place will lead to your dog’s training ending up like my math skills.
It is important you continue the changes your trainer has implemented surrounding the structure of your dog’s life, or I hope you can learn to live with the dog’s traits that drove you to training in the first place.
If you find a trainer that tells you after their training you will NEVER have to work with your dog and they will just be perfect forever, quickly gather your things, find the nearest exit and RUN. This is completely unrealistic and frankly a lie.
The truth is, the training your dog receives from any trainer is only as good as the work you put in after the training.
If you are committed to your dog and the life you desire, you will continue to grow and see success.
A good trainer will be there to support you through the journey, be your cheerleader, offer support as needed, and ultimately assist you in creating a better life for you and your dog.