The Poisoned Cue from Dogs Naturally Magazine

www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com

 

One of the best “Cue” articles that we’ve seen!

Most of us are generally on board when it comes to reward-based training. We all like to be nice to our dogs and we all like happy, willing partners … so it just seems like a good idea to use cookies and games when teaching our dogs new things.What To Do When Your Dog Doesn’t Obey
Let’s use a recall as an example. If you you ask your dog to come and he simply shrugs you off and continues doing his own thing, is it time to change stride and start correcting poor choices?

It may seem that giving cookies for right responses and verbal or physical reprimands for wrong responses is a good idea. This is what many people call ‘balanced training’.

But while it seems like good sense, there are very real and unwanted byproducts of using reprimands.

Let’s Make A Deal
If you teach your dog with cookies, you’ve established a pact with your dog: “You do what I ask and I’ll give you something yummie.”

It’s a good deal … your dog is happy, you’re happy and everything goes well. And your dog learns over time that every time you ask him to do something, it’s a promise of good things to come. And that’s good …

With positive training, your dog becomes very motivated to comply with your wishes because every request is an opportunity to earn a reward. As you repeat this over time, your cues actually become rewards in themselves.

Breaking The Deal
Let’s say you call your dog and he doesn’t come. So you go and get him and give him a little shake for being bad. Suddenly, there’s a shift in your dog’s perception of the cues.

Once he’s corrected for a wrong response, your cues are now threats as well as promises.

When this happens, your cues no longer serve as rewards … so your dog will have a lot less emotional attachment to them and a lot less motivation to comply.

Cues As Rewards
If you teach your dog that “come” means an invitation to come and get some cookies and play some games, your dog would really look forward to hearing that word. He would also be motivated to actually come because he knows there’s a chance that doing so could earn him rewards.

But once you say “come” and follow up with a correction, your dog will become suspicious of the cue. He’ll no longer feel that happy anticipation when he hears the word, because it’s no longer a good predictor of Good Things For Dog.

The Results . . .
If you punish your dog after a cue, even if he doesn’t comply, you’ll start to see slower responses, fear of responding, or calming signals such as sniffing the ground or looking away. Your dog will lose interest and motivation because he’ll understandably want to avoid any chance of correction or punishment.

Even if you continue to reward right responses, you’ll see this shift in motivation. This is because your requests are no longer safe for your dog.

This is called poisoning the cue … your cues are now threats as well as promises.

Leave a Reply