“I try to find ways to make them successful, by giving them reasonable challenges while stretching them a bit outside of their comfort zone, so they experience the results of their efforts. We should seek and create environments that breed success, but not too easy ones filled with false praise either. The point is legitimate praise for legitimate improvement. We should reaffirm the value of effort with honest, positive reinforcement.” Brandi Chastain (Soccer player, World Cup winner, Olympic Gold medalist)
Soccer is a big part of my life and when I read It’s Not About the Bra by Brandi Chastain, the quote above seemed to hit me over the head. She is of course talking about coaching soccer. But she could be talking about training dogs.
Clients experience their first field trip in Richmond, Virginia with Follow Me Dog Training LLC around the third or fourth lesson. The point of the field trip doesn’t seem to become clear to owners until a few obstacles in, after I’ve had their dog walk across a downed tree or hopped onto a couple of large rocks. The field trip takes them right out of their comfort zone! The dogs have already been successful through a few lessons and have been challenged to use their bodies and minds in a new way. They have learned to listen and that in so doing they will be rewarded with more time and praise from their owners. The field trip however brings about a whole new level of challenges for your dog: distractions like squirrels and people, obstacles your dog wouldn’t normally dream of conquering, and learning to use their bodies at the same time as listening to their owners.
Obstacles should be met with confidence and when conquered praise should be given equal with the task. If your dog is physically capable and the owner takes the time to teach the dog that they can do it, the dog can do just about anything. Once accomplished, it is rare to find a dog that doesn’t start approaching anything with head up and a bit of enthusiasm. It doesn’t have to be a ‘place’ command though, it can be a distance sit with recall. It can be sitting in a group of other dogs without any snarkiness. Or it can be walking down the street without barking back at the dogs behind fences.
I like when Brandi states “The point is legitimate praise for legitimate improvement.” If we continue to challenge our dogs, they deserve praise for their work. It is important for the owner to notice the improvements our dogs have made and the successes they have had. Sometimes a simple quiet “good dog” is all that is needed, a scratch between the ears, or even a touch under the chin. Other times that praise might mean a little party (the kind a dog gets after pooping outside!), or a bear hug, or a well earned belly rub. The praise needs to fit the accomplishment…but there always needs to be praise!
Challenge your dogs. Take them out of their comfort zones and teach them how to be confident in their bodies and in their obedience. Be honest in your praise and recognize when your dog has succeeded in a task they didn’t know they could do! I promise you and your dog will have alot more fun when the praise and love are earned and your dog has a confidence built in learning and adventure. Don’t over love or over praise your dog…make them truly earn it.
If you want to learn to lead your dog to success, contact Follow Me Dog Training LLC for a free evaluation.