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Brian’s Bite-sized Behavior Bits

A Certified Dog Trainer (IACP-CDT) and member of the International Association of Canine Professionals, Brian Bergford has extensive experience as a Dog Behavior Specialist and is the owner of Altitude Dog Training. He also owns Uptown Dog in Longmont, Colorado, and functions as the Director of Training and Behavior for this center which provides Behavior- and Pack Work-driven daycare and boarding. Brian specializes in Pack Work, People Development, Basic through Advanced Training, and Behavior Modification and Rehabilitation.

June 2014 – The power of NOW

In the previous installment of Brian’s Bite-Sized Behavior Bits, we explored the power of YES. This time, we’re going to focus on the power of NOW. What is it, exactly? Consider the following scenario: you’re in a restaurant and ask your waiter if you can take a look at the dessert menu he’s got tucked under his arm. He says “Certainly, sir” and just stands there. You keep waiting for him to hand it over but to your amazement he looks at you as though he didn’t even hear what you said. After a long, awkward silence he yawns, stretches his arms above his head, and finally relinquishes it to you

The power of NOW is what you would have liked your not-so-awesome waiter to have exercised in the restaurant; as in “give me the menu in a reasonable time frame, please”. It’s also what you would like your dog to have done when you asked him politely to lie down and he did it… like three years later when he was good and ready. Requests – at least to us humans – hold an unspoken expectation that there is an associated time window in which they should be carried out. How do you activate the power of NOW? First, you need the power of YES in your corner. Your dog must understand what you want him to do before you can expect to sharpen his response time. If you haven’t yet read my last article, make sure you do so to ensure that your dog has a proper foundation in place. Then you can begin to fine-tune his obedience and teach him about earnestness.

One tool I have found quite useful is something I like to refer to as the “you snooze: you lose” technique. In the early stages of teaching your dog a command, be very patient and tell him “Yes!” as soon as he does what you asked. When you start teaching him about the power of NOW, however, you only say “Yes!” and give him a reward if he does it quickly; you are effectively raising your standard – and his requisite workload. When he first learns a “down”, let’s say he’s completing the task in 5 seconds, on average. In order to polish that response, you become pickier and only say “Yes!” If he does it within 4 seconds… then
3 seconds… and eventually 2 seconds. This is accomplished gradually by capturing and rewarding progressively faster responses and ignoring latent ones.

Another way to build speedier obedience is through providing guidance with light pressure. For instance, if you say “sit”, allow for compliance within your pre-determined window before gently introducing steady pressure to your dog’s leash in an upward direction. Maintain that pressure until his bottom is on the ground and then release it altogether. When you give commands in the future, he will begin to anticipate the collar tension and respond more quickly. Applying these concepts to our example with the waiter, you could omit a tip on visits when he procrastinates (no reward). If he doesn’t understand the purpose of your passive-aggressive hint, you could help him understand by applying some social pressure, i.e. clearing your throat and holding your hand out for the menu. It’s
the same concept.

Incorporate the power of NOW into your daily training sessions. It teaches your dog that when he dillydallies, he misses the opportunity for a reward and/or feels mild pressure until he does what was requested of him, but when he does things on time, he earns a “Yes!” plus a treat, toy, or praise.

 

Content Copyrighted 2014. Brian Bergford. All Rights Reserved.