1. Raising Criteria (successive approximation)
2. Breaking Down the Behaviour
3. Vary the Reinforcement
4. Relax Old Criteria When You Add New Criteria
5. Plan Ahead
6. Don’t Change Trainers Mid-stream
7. Be Flexible! When necessary, Change the Plan
8. Don’t Stop a Session Abruptly
Have you ever has someone abruptly walk away from you in the middle of a sentence (yours or theirs) ? Its disconcerting and generally considered rude behaviour. Dogs have enough trouble figuring out what we want when we want it, so don’t make it even harder for them by abruptly stopping a training session to answer the phone or because you heard a crash from the room your kids are playing in.
Yet life happens and we may need to stop a training session at anytime. It is also a very good idea to give your dog a lot of breaks during training to increase their motivation (check out this article on the premack principle).
So instead of stopping a session without warning, train your dog to recognize when it is time for a break by installing a “ready” cue to start training and a “release” cue to finish. I use “Ready” and “Go Play” as my release. You can use any phrase you like, Release, go play, take a break, all done! They all work just fine as long as you are consistent and use the cues regularly during training so when that telephone does ring, or someone is at the door or you hear a crash from the room your kids are in, you can say “go play!” and the dog understands it is time for a break.
Its all about increasing communication between you and your dog so you can both trust each other and understand exactly what the other needs and wants.