My years of teaching the piano and violin to children (and adults) of varying ages and abilities has taught me a great deal. Being praised enthusiastically for doing something well, or even steps made in the right direction, is incredibly motivating and it doesn’t matter how old (or young) you are. Watching a face light up with pride as I lavish praise is wonderful!
Working with a dog is not that different, well, not different at all! Verbal praise is the ‘reward’ you always carry with you and although it takes far more effort on your part to reward your dog with praise rather than with food, it is effort very well spent.
If you watched the video that accompanied yesterday’s post, you will see that I am not a clicker trainer. I don’t like the silence. There are of course many ways to train a dog and clicker training seems to work for many people. For me, personally, it is unnatural not to use my voice to both encourage and praise while my dog is learning. I am very enthusiastic during our training sessions, and it seems to produce good results.
I tried it a few times with both Pepper and Chandi, once I realized it was billed as the ‘best’ way to train your dog. They both looked upset when I relied on the click to ‘talk’ to them. In fact I’m sure Chandi was asking me what the matter was, and why didn’t I use my words?
I believe that you only ‘get out what you put in’. This applies to life in general and also dog training! If you are in a bad mood, or not completely focused on your dog, your dog is going to act in a similar manner. You hold the key to a great, and productive training session, not your dog.
Even at such a young age, when Grace hears me say ‘you are such a good girl!’, her face turns to look up at me and I can see her eyes light up. Whatever she is doing, she immediately tries a little harder and seems to grow in stature!
I have been teaching her to walk at heel without pulling on her lead. Every time she does so, I praise her. Now I am finding that she loves to walk at heel (when she remembers – it’s a work in progress as the world has so many distractions) and I suddenly find her doing her very best effort without me reminding her. She’s trotting along, smiling up at me totally focused on getting me to praise her! People stop to stare (and pass comment) at my young pup trotting along with such a keen and happy attitude. She makes me incredibly proud.
Grace is also good in the house, in every respect. I was determined to not let her get into any bad habits, but show her the correct way to behave from day one. As with learning the piano, it is much easier to be taught correctly from the start than to undo bad habits.
In the five weeks we have been together, Grace has only chewed one thing that she wasn’t supposed to. If I left her in the kitchen for just two minutes, despite giving her toys to play with, she would dig up the corner of the soft mattresses she had to lie on and chew a hole in the under side. This took effort. It would have been easier to chew the blanket on the top rather than the underneath!
There was no point telling her off when I came back into the kitchen to find a mess. I needed to catch her doing it which was easier said than done as she only did it when I was in another room.
During the first week of us being together, I had purchased a water pistol for the very purpose of stopping her from doing something I didn’t want her to do. Sadly, I couldn’t find the type I had when I was a kid – one where you simply pulled a trigger and a jet of water came out. The one I bought was only small, but had to be ‘pumped’ to get the water ready to shoot out.
One day when I was in the kitchen, Grace had just finished her tea when she suddenly flipped up the corner of her bed and started to chew an even bigger hole in the underside!
I grabbed the water pistol which was propped up on the draining board for just such a moment. It was already filled with water and I had previously pumped it, so I thought it was ready for action. I aimed it at Grace, who was totally engaged in chewing, pulled the trigger and nothing happened. I turned back to the sink and pumped it furiously not wanting to miss the moment.
I again pointed it at Grace and pulled the trigger. A dribble of water pathetically dripped out of the end. Once more I turned back to the sink, frantically pumping it again and repeatedly trying to fire a jet of water into the sink. All the while, the hole in Grace’s bed was getting bigger and the mound of stuffing she was extracting from it was also growing. If I couldn’t get the thing to work, I was going to miss my opportunity!
Suddenly thinking how daft I must look, I stopped and silently asked myself the question ‘what the hell are you doing?!’ I chucked the stupid water pistol in the sink and yelled at Grace “stop chewing your bl**dy bed!” She had been so engrossed in chewing, I frightened the living daylights out of her and she hasn’t touched it since. Neither has she chewed anything else, other than her toys.
Water pistols aren’t what they used to be.