Whether you are training, competing, or just on a walk with friends, your dog looks to you for answers and for what to do next. I like to plan my training, handling, or outings with my dog as best I can, with pre-planned answers to any of their potential questions. If I am prepared to answer their questions, they will trust that they can turn to me with their questions, and will be more patient with me when waiting for information.
When an agility run goes really well, I have successfully answered each question my dog has about where to go next.
And, even when the run doesn't go perfectly, and the dog has additional questions about where to go next, I should still have answers for him.
And in training, Shrek had lots of questions about how to be correct. I was able to loosen the criteria before an error occurred to help him be successful and therefore more confident in his choices going forward.
Sometimes, the mistakes are unavoidable, but the dog still needs information. This is a longer video, of the entire session, and there were a few different things happening with the errors.
- I was caught without an answer for her, so I just talked to her. I said exactly what I was thinking, but in a way that is engaging to her. She was happy and wagged her tail through the entire thing. That's a strategy I can use with her because of our relationship and learning history together.
- I ended up reinforcing some errors because of late timing. This isn't an issue for me, because as the video shows, there was a much higher rate of reinforcement for the correct behavior than for the incorrect one.
- And, one time reinforcement was withheld for the teeter behavior and a reset cookie was given.
No matter the situation, what your dog needs right now is information.
Actionable Next Steps:
How will you answer those questions you weren't expecting your dog to ask? Choose one strategy to practice and start applying to your training or competition time. Leave a comment below and tell what you've chosen!