Longhaired Weimaraner Rhea at Crufts

Time is a precious training tool

“Please give me time”

I was recently on a training course and was inspired to write this blog. This blog explains just how one of the most important training tools you can give to your dog(s) is time! I do not mean time as in taking the time to actually training them, I am talking about how that time is given. Confused? Let me explain….. Lets look at you learning something new, driving for instance. Lets say you have had one or two lessons and so have an idea of how to prepare the car, start the car and drive off. So you turn up for lesson 3, its a surprise someone has booked for you but as you stride towards the car you see the instructor, recognise the familiar tool (the car) and the general scenario and therefore you already understand the context and realise that this is going to be a driving lesson. This is akin how your dog feels when you get out familiar tools they have had some interaction with, you enter a familiar training setting or perhaps you put on a special lead or you yourself wear specific clothes etc, they have an idea of what is to come as they have experienced this before.

So here is where my point comes in. You get into the car and pop your seat belt on, that’s the first stage of preparation and comes easily to you but next you have to begin your starting sequence of checking mirrors, adjusting your seat and thinking about which pedals do what. So, you take a moment to gather your thoughts and as you do so one of two things IMMEDIATELY happen:
  1. Your instructor asks you to step out, this task is obviously too hard for you, you’ve not learnt it well enough yet and they feel the need to step in and attempt to find a way to make it more achievable or to find you a new task instead.
  2. Your instructor begins fiddling with the cars mirrors and interfering and adjusting, trying their best to assist you to successfully complete your task.
How do either of those leave you feeling?
  • Confused?
  • Flustered?
  • Less confident in yourself?
  • Pressured?
  • Like the goal posts just moved?
I’m sure a variety of those feelings and more, none of which are likely to be positive. Now how would you have felt if you had been given even just a short period of time to gather your thoughts and try for yourself? In addition the above scenario is often played out when a wrong move is made during the process such as instead of taking your time to gather your thoughts you reach for the gear stick before adjusting your mirrors and your instructor either:
  • Asks you to step out, this task is obviously to hard for you, you’ve not learnt it well enough yet and they feel the need to step in and attempt to find a way to make it more achievable or to find you a new task instead.
  • Your instructor immediately stops you and informs you of what your next step should have been because they so desperately want you to successfully complete the task.
Now what would have happened if instead, your instructor had given you just a few seconds with your hand on the gear stick to feel for yourself that it doesn’t quite feel right and maybe let the penny drop that this wasn’t the right move?
  • Pleased that you figured it out?
  • More confident that you are gradually learning for yourself?
  • Grateful that they have shown enough confidence in you to allow you that time?
I’m sure a variety of those feelings and more, all of which are likely to be positive.

Now I realise I am anthropomorphising here but its the simplest way I could think to make the point so hopefully you will forgive me and next time you are training your dog you will stop and think twice when they offer a chin target on something they should be nose targeting.

Don’t just take the target away or interfere trying to show them exactly what is required by bombarding them with additional cues etc. Give them time, just a moment or two and allow them to think, to process, to breathe, to be and then just maybe that penny might drop and they might move from the chin target to the nose target all of their own accord and I guarantee that:
  • They will feel like a million bucks as they hear their reward marker and the reward is received
  • Their confidence will grow
  • They will be more willing to offer behaviours in future without fear that trying is discouraged
In addition
  • You will feel like a million bucks that they figured it out on their own
  • Your confidence in them and in you as a team will grow
  • Your trust in them will grow and giving them time will become natural
When giving them time they don’t need oodles of it, just a few seconds is sometimes enough, when you see they really need some help them by all means re think your plan of action and take action but don’t always feel the need to leap in and rescue them because rather than rescuing them you are likely having the opposite effect……food for thought Live the life you deserve and give your dog they life they deserve, not what others think you deserve.

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Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article is not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Nina Fotara T/as Confident Canine disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.