Timing is very important when training your dog. For training to be successful, our timing as trainers needs to be pretty accurate. Since our dogs are doing several things at once, it can sometimes be hard for our dogs to understand the exact behavior they are getting rewarded for. On top of that we sometimes take a few seconds before the reward for the behavior reaches the dog, making it even harder to figure out. The faster we can reward the dog for doing the behavior we are training, the faster our dogs will catch on. This is why trainers use what we call a “reward marker”. This is usually a short word like “yes”, or the “click” from a clicker that forms a bridge between the behavior and the treat the dog is getting for that behavior. The dog needs to associate the treat with the behavior we want, by using a “reward marker”, we can help them connect the two.
The first thing we’ll teach your dog is that “click” means a treat will follow. Like this “click” becomes that bridge between the action and the treat.
“Click” = treat, then sit = “click” which = treat.
It won’t be long before your dog is trying behaviors to try and get that “click”. At first the “click” needs to be followed closely by the treat, later on you can take a bit longer.
When we are teaching the reward marker we suggest you have a baggy of treats ready so you are not looking for them and losing precious time. Also, make sure that you are not rewarding something you dislike, for example jumping or nipping.
As you move forward with training try to keep your pup in the position you’ve chosen for the “click” and the moment you release the treat. If your pup gets really excited about the “click” and moves, lure him back into position with the treat and then release it in his mouth. This will prevent your dog from being rewarded for the wrong thing and your dog will become more aware of his body and behaviors you are training.
A great way to practice your timing as a trainer has nothing to do with dogs. Try this while your dog is not in the room, bounce a tennis ball and either “click” or say “yes” every time the ball touches the ground. This will help you warm up your observation skills right before you train your dog, so you can catch the exact second in which your dog’s butt touches the ground for “sit” or the moment the elbows reach the ground for “down”.
Remember that training your dog should be fun for both you and the dog so if your dog is not getting something, let the dog rest and resume your training in a few hours. With careful and patient training your dog might end up in a video like this one…