The topic today is: It Takes Thousands of Reps
If you’re new to dog training, here’s something that you should know. It takes thousands of reps to actually train a dog. To complicate the matter even further, not only does it take those thousands of reps, but all of those repetitions need to be done in a short period of time. Perhaps it could be two weeks, two months, maybe even six months.
You and Your Dog Need Training
Yes, your foundational skills are where your dog should learn how to stay, come, play and heel. Let’s not forget my famous stay play, come heel. Everybody here should be saying that together with me at this point. But for those of you who are new, it’s going to take a lot of repetitions to actually get your dog trained. Not only does your dog have to get trained, but you do as well.
I would like to share with you just one thing that might be useful for some of you that are considering dog training and getting skilled at training your dog.
I talk about nonverbal communication a lot. Also, I talk about the proper use of release, the use of your food and your treats, and the use of body language. We’re humans and we want to talk. As you’re reading this, you’re hearing a voice. Using your voice is very important. As you’re getting your thousands of repetitions, you want to make sure that your voice is doing something that’s going to benefit you and the dog not only in the short term but in the long run.
Here are four things that you’re going to want to do well. You’re going to want to be very good at prompting your dog. You’re going to want to be good at labeling your dog’s actions, marking behaviors, and praising. The reason I say that you want to be good at these things is that your dog’s reward rate needs to be somewhere between 80-95% of the time when you’re working on a skill.
If you’re not good at those things, then you’re not going to be able to take full advantage of your voice the way you should. I know this may sound a bit technical for some of you, but I’m hoping the following will help you out.
First, let’s talk about prompting. If you watch any of my training videos where you hear me communicating with a dog, you might hear the question, “Are you ready?” This is an attention-getting device that I teach the dog. It tells them that we’re about to do something that can yield a high reward. I would also advise people to learn how to prompt their dog without actually using their dog’s name. Use prompts like “Do you want to work?” “Do you want to play?” You want to know how to use them to get your dog motivated.
Now, how about labeling. Labeling is important because everybody reading this wants voice commands. So voice command is something that your dog will actually take action on. But what do you do when you have a twelve-week-old puppy that doesn’t understand any words that are coming out of your mouth. Well, you need to label their actions. As you’re using those non-verbals that I mentioned earlier, you’re actually labeling everything. When you want them to go to their bed, to heel, to come. Any of those things that you want the dog to do. Instead of telling them to do it, you will use your non-verbals. And then you label those actions with the word that’s going to turn into your command.
Marking is when you’re going to tell the dog that they’re getting it right. Sometimes we say words like “good dog”, “good boy”, or “good girl”. Sometimes you might use a tool like a clicker. Any of those are fine, but you need to have a good marker word that lets the dog know that they got it right. This is really easy to teach.
Lastly, we have praise. You want to have words that you use consistently for praise. When I’m training beginners for basic obedience, I use “good dog” and “good boy. Also, “nice girl”, “nice boy”. I use this quite a bit as a moment marker and praise. It’s okay if you do that in the beginning. But if you’re trying to get more technical with your dog, then use different marker words. Maybe even use a clicker.
So as you’re getting your thousands of reps and learning how to do your nonverbals. You need to make sure that your voice is actually getting associated properly. So that way you truly have good voice control. When you’ve gotten to the end of two months, six months, the end of one year of training your dog. You and your dog will be on the same page about what your words actually mean.
As always, Happy Training!