There are three conditions feedback must meet in order for a dog to include it in his learning process.:
- it needs to be immediate, for the dog to be able to form the correct association
- it needs to be consistent
- and it needs to be meaningful
This is what all the training methods, tricks and tools boil down to. This is also why it really makes no sense to scold your dog for something he's done an hour ago.
When I got Jasmine, she was my first puppy, and I have to say I had a very little idea what I was supposed to be doing. I started reading dog training books and trying out the things I learned. Some of them seemed to have worked better than others, particularly because Jasmine is a very smart dog.
The timing and consistency weren't that hard to figure out. Why were my attempts sometimes successful and sometimes not? Why, for example, she would always rush through the door first, regardless?
And then I saw the light. I have power over the door! I decide whether it opens or closes!
That day I taught Jasmine to wait nicely and let me out of the door first within half an hour. And that was all it took! We got ready to go for a walk. I started opening the door, and Jasmine was getting ready to make a break for it as usual. So I closed the door again. She sat with a puzzled look on her face. I waited for a bit, and reached for the handle. Again, she was about to dart out. And again the door didn't open.
It did take us half an hour to actually make it out of the house, but I led the way. Jasmine learned that letting me to go first was the only way for her to get through that door.
And I learned about the power of meaningful consequence.
While it really is that simple, it doesn't mean that it is easy. Because it is not always as easy to control the situation as in this case.
If you ever tried teaching your dog not to jump on people to greet them, you know what I mean. It's nearly impossible to get people to cooperate. Even though all they'd need to do is to ignore the dog when he's jumping on them and reward him by attention when he sits nicely, I find that they always seem to do the opposite. And your dog is learning that jumping on people is the thing to do.
However, if you can come up with a meaningful consequence for your dog's actions, you can achieve anything.
If you have a success story, please share it with us!