Dog training is very much like learning to play a sport. Can you become a great basketball player just by watching Lebron James on TV? Sadly, no. This is also true for dog training, where the skills and timing are only learned with practice and good technique.
Proper technique is critical when you are teaching your dog a new command or trick. Additional body movement is usually confusing to a dog, leading to loss of attention and frustration. Here are my five top tips for ensuring your dog understands.
Place Your Hands In a Neutral Position
Keep both hands in line with your waist. Only move your hand away from the neutral position if you are delivering a treat or signalling.
Always Bend Your Knees
Bending your knees gives your dog a visual cue at the level of their eyes that a food reward is heading their way. Bend your knees such that your extended treat hand will reach your dogs mouth without you having to bend over.
Keep Your Back Straight
When training try to keep a straight back. Your back should remain upright as you squat down (bending your knees) to give a treat. Not only is this good for our posture it also prevents us from getting into the dog’s space. Dogs can be confused by their people leaning in, “Does my human want me to lick her face, back up, or play?”. Some dogs may perceive leaning over them to be a threat also.
Clicker Training: Click, Pause, Straighten
Make sure your treat hand is perfectly still in the neutral position. The second your dog performs the command you want you should click the clicker, pause, then straighten your treat arm directly to your dogs mouth releasing the treat. There needs to be a distinct pause between when you click and when you move your treat arm to deliver the treat.
Moving your hand towards the treat pouch or towards your dog’s mouth before the click (or at the same time as the click) will teach your dog only to do something if he thinks he is going to be rewarded. Keep your hand very still until you have clicked.
Quick Treat Delivery - BAM!
When delivering your treat straighten your arm as quickly as possible towards your dog’s mouth. If you move too slowly, your dog may start to jump up to grab the treat. Afterwards, return your hand back to a neutral position.
I recommend video taping yourself to see how closely you mimic the correct technique. A good dog trainer can coach you through the above process to help improve your technique and the effectiveness of your training. Happy training.