To train a dog efficiently you should set quickly achievable criteria. This means splitting the behavior into very small increments and training each increment to a high level of fluency. With dogs we believe that fluency at each level should be 80% before you move onto the next level or criteria. If you set good criteria then you should be able to achieve each criteria or level of behavior within 5 to 8 trials. At the DogSmith we work on 1 set of 5 trials and establish from the results if the animal has learned. We decide then if we can move onto the next criteria, repeat the current criteria or sometimes if necessary make a decision to drop down to the criteria below until the behavior is solid.
For example when teaching a dog to sit/maintain, or sit stay. The criteria may look like this
- Dog places bum on ground for 1 second with a lure
- Dog places bum on ground for 3 seconds with a lure
- Dog places bum on ground for 5 seconds with a hand signal
- Dog places bum on ground for 5 seconds with a verbal cue
- Dog Places bum on ground for 8 seconds with either a hand signal or a verbal cue
This builds a duration behavior. To build a distance behavior you may start your training with a sit for 3 seconds 1 step away and then increase your criteria, the distance a step at a time.
For each step, criteria you would repeat the behavior 5 times, if the fluency level is 80%, then you can move onto the next level. The dog has shown that not only have you trained but they have learned as the new behavior has been demonstrated. Where most trainers go wrong is that they get fluency at the lower levels and then jump too quickly to building distance and duration behavior.
Train effectively and efficiently. Have a plan and follow it.