- Is your dog lazy or hyper? If you have Droopy the Bassett Hound, then this might be the time to up your energy, praise and excitement. If you try to train Droopy in a solemn, stern voice you probably won't get very far. If you have Marley the Yellow Lab (from "Marley and Me"), too much praise, baby talk and excitement will take your already excited dog and send him over the edge into a wild, uncontrollable state.
- Is your praise working? Often times I will see people training a stay and every so often they will want to let their dog know they are doing the right thing so they will say "good dog!" - a few dogs, this will break their stay every time. You can see their tails start to move the second the owner says "good dog" and with their tail helicoptering, it becomes very difficult to maintain a sit stay for a dog. Other dogs will start to look off into the distance when practicing a stay and get kind of a bored / curious look in their eyes gazing off into the distance. For these dogs, some encouragement can help them finish their stay.
- Do you need to adjust your intensity or timing? These are questions that are more often asked about corrections than praise, but they are equally important to both sides of the spectrum. As discussed above, giving praise at the wrong time can be the difference between your dog maintaining a stay and being safe, or getting overly excited and running into the road. If you are training Droopy the Bassett Hound, your praise will probably need to be at a high intensity and delivered frequently. If you have Marley, the energetic Yellow Lab, then maybe a quiet "good boy" and a gentle pat on the head is more than enough reward.
- Be wary of repetition. Sometimes it's okay to repeat a request to a dog. Often times, people try this when the dog doesn't know what you're talking about in the first place, so saying it over and over again just creates confusion. I will often see this with new dog owners the first time they teach a dog something - they will just frantically start repeating themselves - "sit... sit... no SIT... SIT SIT SIT SIT SIT SIT!" and all the while the dog is just getting more confused and less reliable. Repeating yourself not only works the dog up, but it will also work the handler up and both sides become frustrated. In the early stages, you want to introduce the word and then show the dog what the word means. In later stages, the dog may need a couple repetitions if they are highly distracted. I usually only repeat myself if I want to make sure the dog heard me, or I need compliance and I don't have better control of the situation than to follow and repeat.
As with much of my philosophy, you will notice there is no one size fits all approach. It's important that you both learn how to read your dog and start delivering her the exact right communication she needs to be successful.
Hyperactivity is one of the most common problems we see in the dog world. If you are one of those owners with a live wire dog, jumping on everyone, surfing counters, getting the zoomies through the house, then it's time that you start cultivating calmness in your house. And doing so starts with changing the way you communicate your expectations.
This is a question I have never been asked, but something that should come from every client.
Two of the easiest mistakes to make when training a dog is to praise her incorrectly or to verbally reprimand her incorrectly. Both mistakes are common, and it happens repeatedly in any training scenario - often times even by experienced and skilled trainers.
There's several considerations when trying to decide if your words are hurting or helping your dog training, and this is largely dependent on which type of dog you own.