In life, timing is everything. You could be offered the perfect, most amazing opportunity, but if the timing is bad, it’s all bad. When you deliver tough news to someone, the time in which you do so matters. Timing is everything in life and it also matters when training dogs.
When I work with dogs, more likely than not I will use treats as reinforcement. In other words, food is their paycheck, but timing is key in order to use the food successfully.
Imagine these two scenarios when delivering treats:
Show Treat –> Call “come” –> Dog comes –> Deliver treat
Call “come”–> Dog comes —> Deliver treat
Do you see the difference? It’s important that you get the behavior first before delivering the reinforcement or even allowing him to see the treat: Why? Because in the first situation you are offering him a bribe. What will end up happening with the first scenario, which is a frequent complaint that I hear from dog owners when they come the first night of class, is, “My dog will only lie down for a treat.” Or another classic one is that the dog only comes when he hears the owner shaking the bag of treats. These techniques are not good training methods nor will they give you the strong desired behaviors that I know you want.
“The timing, intensity and intervals of reinforcement all have direct consequences on learned behaviour. “ Bruce Fogle [The Dog’s Mind 100]
Another scenario that I often see is: a pet owner keeps their hand constantly in the bait bag (treat tote). So for example, the pet owner is working on eye contact while the dog is on the leash and the entire session the pet guardian has her hand in the treat bag awaiting the desired behavior. This too is poor timing when using treats as reinforcement.
If you train using the treat first before the cue or behavior, you will always be stuck doing so. With good training skills, a handler will wait for the desired behavior and then deliver the treat. Use timing to your advantage with reinforcement and you will be well on your way to gaining solid behaviors and the dog you’ve always wanted.
Building the bridge of communication between dog and pet guardian