How a dog processes information can be broken down into Timing, Motivation, and Consistency.
It's scientifically proven that we have approximately one second to influence a dog's behavior. This means you have one second to reward your dog for a behavior you would like repeated, and one second to correct your dog for a behavior you would not like repeated.
If the reward or the correction does not come within one second, then your dog will not make the connection. The moment your dog does a behavior you are trying to capture, you have to either deliver a primary reinforcer or a conditioned reinforcer within the first second. The same principle applies to actions you would not like your dog to repeat. The moment your dog does the undesired behavior in question, you have to deliver either a primary correction or a conditioned correction within a second of your dog doing that behavior.
Here is an example of how important timing is. Let's say you are doing a down-stay with your dog and you’re in a wide-open space like a football field. While you're walking away from your dog across the field, your dog breaks the down-stay without you seeing. Your dog then decides to run to you, and when you turn around and see your dog running at you, you then correct your dog for breaking the down-stay. Even though you believe that you corrected your dog for breaking a down-stay, you just corrected your dog for coming to you. Since you did not see your dog break the down-stay, you should not have corrected the dog. Instead, you should have rewarded your dog for coming to you.
Motivation can be positive as well as negative. It is also the key to getting your dog to perform the expected behavior. There are four different ways to motivate a dog during training. You can motivate your dog with a toy, with food, with praise, or with force. A good trainer knows how to use the method that is best for each individual dog.
Your dog will always do whatever is most motivating. For example, if you're trying to get your dog to perform a sit and he is surrounded by his favorite thing, which is rabbits, he's going to be more motivated to chase the rabbits compared to his motivation to work for your treat. It's important to keep in mind that dogs can be motivated by many things. They can be motivated to access something pleasant, or they can be motivated to prevent something unpleasant. By making sure that you always provide the most motivating factor for your dog, you will ensure reliability in your dog’s obedience. Another factor to keep in mind is that speed is based on motivation; the more motivated your dog is, the faster your dog will perform the desired behavior.
When it comes to using collars as a form of correction there are four main types to choose from: the flat collar, choke collar, pinch or prong collar, and the e-collar. A study was conducted on over 200 different dogs to determine which collar was the safest and which was the most effective. At the top was the e-collar, second the pinch collar, third the flat collar and last was the choke collar. We recommend using the prong collar and the e-collar.
It's important to remember that every dog has their own bank account (their correction level). Some dogs are very wealthy, and some are penniless, just like people. Let's say that you are speeding down the highway and a police officer pulls you over and writes you a 25 cent speeding ticket. The second the officer leaves, you will start racing again. The ticket wasn't high enough to get you to change your behavior, but let's say he pulls you over and writes you a ten-million dollar speeding ticket. It's now so high that you will avoid driving altogether, and you will be very stressed out. As the final example, let's say he pulls you over and writes you a hundred and twenty-five dollar speeding ticket. That amount is just right and would get you to slow down without making you avoid the behavior of driving altogether. This is what we must do with our dogs; we need to correct them at a level that is adequate to their bank account.
This one is paramount, because even if you have bad timing and wrong motivation, if you are consistent, your dog will still be able to learn. You also want to keep in mind to always stay consistent with what you want and expect from your dog. If you let your dog jump on the furniture one day, don't correct your dog for jumping on the furniture the next day. If you are inconsistent, you will create stress and confusion for your dog. You also want to be consistent with the way you say your markers as well as your commands. Remember, your dog doesn't comprehend the words S. I. T., your dog hears a sound. So, you want your commands always to sound the same, meaning you shouldn’t constantly be changing the rise and inflection of your commands.
On this topic, let’s now discuss predictability. This concept is not part of the primary principles, but it's one you always need to keep in mind when it comes to dog training. Always think about your actions as you train your dog, and if they are becoming predictable or not. You can use this to improve the training process, or by contrast, it can actually create problems. For example, let's say you love taking your dog to the beach, and this is an activity that your dog enjoys. Every time you are ready to leave, you call your dog to you. Eventually, your dog will learn not to come to you when you call at the beach because it's now predictable that when you call your dog—that it's time to leave, so this would make it tough to get your dog to come to you—because the dog doesn’t want to leave the beach.
Instead, you would always want to play “come when called” games at the beach that predict a release and a reward, like a ball. This way, your dog will enjoy coming to you when called. It's a simple concept: if your dog can predict something, then your dog can learn it, just like obedience. You say the command, and then you show your dog the physical cue. This way, the dog learns that when you say a command, it is then followed by the action that gets the dog into the position. Once the dog knows this, then you no longer need the physical cue, because it is now predictable for your dog.