Obedience is Hard! Take the Challenge - Part II

Jun 30, 2023
competition obedience AKC

Last week, I talked about the unique challenge of Obedience. Many sports are naturally motivating for a dog to perform, while much about obedience is not. It is our job to teach our dogs to love the skills and exercises. When we train, we want our dogs to be engaged, motivated, and we want to have fun training.

Previously, I asked you to make a list of your dog’s momentum builders, momentum killers and momentum neutral skills and exercises.

This week let’s start changing your dog’s attitude about the skills/exercises in the momentum killer and momentum neutral columns. You can do that if you understand how to effectively use your Reward Marker.

Please watch this video. In it, my husband, Pat Nolan, and I explain that when we connect behavior to a Reward Marker, the behavior becomes rewarding.

Using a Reward Marker correctly involves good timing. Watch this video for a demonstration.

Here's your new assignment.

1. Pick an exercise on your dog’s list of Momentum Killer or Momentum Neutral exercises.

2. Video your training session and practice using your reward marker to capture a moment your dog is performing as you desire.

3. When you review your video, watch for these common mistakes:

  • Do not say anything before the marker: For example, when the dog sits in front of you, “mark” it, with a “Yes!” The same is true when using a clicker. There is no reason to speak before the click.
  • Mark first, then reach for your reward: Your dog should hear your verbal marker before he sees you reach for the reward. If you reach too soon, your dog will start watching your hands and connect your behavior with a reward instead of his behavior.

If you avoid these two mistakes, you can clearly communicate to your dog exactly what he is doing that earns him a reward. Your dog will start to perform faster and with enthusiasm as he understands what makes reward happen.

If you are trying to improve an exercise and are unsure when to use a Reward Marker to indicate exactly what you desire, send me an email so I can help.

When your dog starts to enjoy the exercises that were momentum killers, you are ready for the next step. Can he pay attention and perform that exercise off-leash, in distracting environments? I have more information to share with you about that. Look for an email from me next week.


~ Connie

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