Catching Behavior

When training your dog, there are a number of easy ways you can get her to perform the desired behavior. One of the easiest force-free ways to teach your dog a behavior is by 'catching' her in the act of the behavior.

The concept of catching a behavior is that you identify and reward behaviors or actions that your dog performs without a cue from you or anyone else, thus making it more likely that the dog will repeat that behavior or action again.

This method works wonderfully for basic cues like 'sit' and 'down,' because your dog naturally performs these behaviors on her own.


How to Catch a Behavior (Example: 'Sit')

  • Wait for your dog to sit on her own, and then immediately give a verbal marker like 'yes!' followed by a reward.
  • You can use your dog’s favorite treats or toy as a reward, or simply praise if your dog is praise-motivated.
  • In the place of the verbal marker, you can also use a clicker. Read more about how clicker training works.
  • Once your dog is consistently sitting, say the word 'sit' as she is in the action of sitting.
  • Continue catching your dog in the act of the behavior you want to reinforce, and eventually your dog will begin to voluntarily perform the behavior in order to receive a reward.
  • Now you are ready to put the action on cue. Ask your dog to 'sit' and she should now have made the association between the word and the action.
  • You can also begin to use hand signals along with your verbal cues.
  • The beauty of this training is that it encourages the dog to think and problem-solve, which is important for learning satisfaction.
  • No physical manipulation is required using this method.

Although all dogs learn at a different pace, if you are consistent and time your verbal marker and reward well, your dog will pick up on the training quickly.

 

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