Workout Wednesdays – CYOA
Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? I loved those stories and would read them over again and again. What I liked most about them was the unexpected rewards you got at every choice. Dogs love that kind of reward system too. Positive behaviour and reinforcement is best displayed when the dog is making their own choices from the outset.
This week we’ve been working on good choices for Jaxon. I realised that rewarding him with food wasn’t really putting the value of the relationship into me, but into the food.
Changing that is a long path, and one that I must be patient with. So over the last week, our usual 5 minutes at each end of the day has focused on rewarding great decisions.
For training inside, I’ve been working on a few things – pole turns, heel position, and mat work.
We have done all of this training without food until the very end.
Basically at each session, what I’m doing is waiting for Jaxon to choose the behaviour I want to reward. Instead of a “Yes” and treat or Click and treat, he gets a “good boy!” and a pat.
Please note, that I’ve been training Jaxon on these behaviours already, so I’m not teaching them new. This means I shouldn’t have to rely on the food to elicit the behaviour I’m after. This is progressing the value of the behaviour to me.
The two most important things I can say about this if you’re trying it at home:
- Don’t give in to your pup if they can’t get the behaviour first go. Let them experience failure, and how to think their way out of that. The reward then becomes so much more impactful.
That means don’t give in first and give signals or hints to your pup. Even if it takes the full five mins. At least give them the chance to make the decision.
- The reward you will get from seeing how your dog works through failure to find success will play out in everything that you do together. Make it fun, have a laugh, and shower your pup with celebration when they do get that decision right.
Most of all – don’t forget to keep it short & fun!