Whole Dog Journal Tips November 24, 2014

(Do As I Do Tip #1) Four Golden Rules

These four golden rules should be followed during Do As I Do training (or any other training technique one relies upon).

1. Working sessions must be kept SHORT

Each training session must amount to what is a fun game for your dog to be played in your company. If the dog becomes exhausted, his motivation can decrease and he can be less willing to cooperate with what you are trying to accomplish in the next training session. For this reason, it is important to close the training session before the dog becomes tired, when he is still willing to work (i.e., willing to have fun) with you.

Remember that training sessions should be a fun, playful activity for your dog. This does not mean that you should not work hard to get the training right; it just means that you should be diligent about making it fun for you and especially for your dog. If you respect this rule, you will see that in the next session the dog’s motivation will likely increase.

Keep in mind also that this training technique is not merely based on the establishment of associations between stimuli and responses. It required the dog to use his cognitive social skills. The dog will likely get tired relatively quickly because this implies much concentration. A good strategy to ensure that you do not overextend the training session out of enthusiasm is to count the treats you are delivering to the dog. But do not forget to offer a jackpot when you come across a particularly good response!

On average a six-trial session is sufficient and after the training it is ideal to provide the dog a place to relax body and mind.

2. Pause immediately if you detect signs of STRESS in the dog

Learning something new is always a stressful mental challenge. In any training situation, it is likely that the dog will not understand the purpose of the game at the beginning. If you notice at any point that the stress level is excessive, it is better to stop the training session at once and only resume it after the dog has rested and is calmer. In fact, excessive amounts of stress are not only bad for your dog but also compromise his ability to learn.

3. Always end the training session with a SUCCESS from the dog (and for you!)

If your dog fails with a difficult exercise, do not set him up for failure again and again. The right thing to do is to simplify the exercise a bit and end the working session on a high note.

4. Let your dog take a BREAK

Working sessions must be kept short to be effective for learning. Asking for six consecutive trials represents a significant mental effort and it is more than enough for most dogs. For some dogs this length may even be excessive.

By stopping before the dog gets tired, learning will be much more effective and the dog will not lose the motivation to work with you. Sometimes the enthusiasm for what you are doing or the attempt to obtain immediate results can lead you to prolong the working sessions too much. Rather than waiting for your dog to be tired or stressed, it is good practice to end the session while your dog is still willing to work. After a training session it is of the utmost importance to grant your dog a break.

Claudia Fugazza’s new book, Do As I Do, examines dog training based on social learning. The book and accompanying DVD, explains and details this innovative approach to training. Buy it from Whole Dog Journal today.