Imagine it’s your first day at the new school. Your are not really the self-confident; bravery type of a person. It takes a lot of courage and strength to face this new situation. During one the classes you decide to give it a shot and try to answer the teacher’s question. The answer it wrong. The whole class, including the teacher makes fun of you, they say you should try harder next time. Despite this situation you try one more time during the next day. You think you know the answer, you try hard to make a good impression on teach and new fellow classmates. Again the answer is wrong. Both teacher and class tease you, make fun of you and criticize you. How do you feel now? Would you ever try again? Would you have the courage to face such situation? How many times would you try again if the reaction of the class and the teacher remained the same? Even being perfectly prepared would you risk?
Now imagine a slightly different scenario. It is your first day at the new school. Your are not really the self-confident; bravery type of a person. It takes a lot of courage and strength to face this new situation. During one the classes you decide to give it a shot and try to answer the teacher’s question. The answer it wrong. The teacher rewards you for an effort; encourages the class to discuss the question and you find the right answer together. The situation repeats during the next lesson.How do you feel now? Which scenario is helpful for building your self-confidence and attitude to work? Which one will make you more reluctant to try and learn?
Okay, now imagine how a dog with low self-confidence feels when he is criticized for his efforts. It is exactly the same situation as the one described above. You do not need physical coercion to dampen someone’s enthusiasm. No reward marker, failure marker, punishment marker, or any form of verbal correction is sometimes enough.
That is why “wrong decision is better than no decision” is my motto for dog training. I believe that any decision, even the wrong one is better than no decision at all. Not confident dogs with long history of R- or Punishment should take over the initiatives in work; I want them to make their own decisions in training without the fear of consequences.
On the video below you can see my dog Gapcio takes off of the heel position and runs to a square (he was in a heel position and we were about to start heeling sequence) . And what do I do? I reward him, I don not punish him; I do not call him back; I do not stop him or say NRM (no reward marker), I run to him and say how great boy he was for trying. Why? Because not so long ago he was unable to take such a giant step and do anything on his own. This is exactly what I want to encourage. If I had called him back or used NRM he would have probably stopped with his ears to the sides and face saying I’m so sorry, and this would have meant the end of training because he would have been stuck. I would do the same thing if he had run to the training back with food.
With such dogs we do not have to worry about control. They need the freedom of choice. If these are the dogs who get stuck, unable to make any decision on their own we really have nothing to control in the first place. These are the dogs who need our support, boosting their self-confidence, they need rewards for efforts. They need trust.
So next time your dog offers something on his own, think for a second how would you like to be treated in his place. What response would boost your confidence and do this to your dog.
Believe me it will pay in future!