We’ve all heard the old saying “You learn from your mistakes”. We all learn that there are consequences for our choices and we learn what’s correct from our mistakes. Dogs are no different. Choice based dog training allows dogs to think, and problem solve, while learning from the choices they make. There’s no pushing, punishing or physically manipulation, the wrong choice simply gets the dog nothing. The dog learns as much from getting it wrong, as they do from getting it right, because they learn what doesn’t work.
I use this technique a lot in my training, especially with puppies and young dogs. One of my favorite things to teach is a default sit. Basically teaching the dog to sit to “say please”; sitting gets you what you want, sitting always works, if you get in a situation and you don’t know what to do, just sit.
SO let’s look at this in real life:
Imagine your dog wants to go for a walk. When you bring out the leash he starts jumping and dancing around in excitement, which makes it difficult to get his leash hooked up. Instead of punishing the dog for jumping, how could you use choice training to teach the dog to patiently sit and wait for the leash? You bring out the leash and when your dog gets excited you simply put the leash down and walk away. Once your dog is calm, or better yet sitting, you pick up the leash again. Repeat this several times and the dog learns that jumping around makes his leash go away.
Next, try attaching the leash to your dog’s collar. If he starts his excitement dance again, put down the leash and walk away. Again, the dog learns that overexcitement make his leash go away. Your dog learns to make the correct choice in order to get what he wants – a walk.
When teaching is done in this way, the dog is choosing to work towards something he wants, instead of trying to avoid a punishment. The dog becomes a willing and eager participant in the training process because he has the opportunity to learn what behavior is rewarding to offer you in order to get what he wants. It’s a win-win for all!