Here’s Finn, an adult Golden Retriever who already knows how to work in obedience. He is now learning how to choose to work. Note the emphasis on choice. In Finn’s first lesson with me, it took about three minutes before he even glanced at his trainer. Today (second lesson), he not only chose to work, he chose much more quickly. His handler is doing an excellent job; I look forward to watching their progress.
Here’s the same dog 20 minutes later. This time he is working in a more distracting area; near the bushes. He can chose to work but he is prevented from getting to the bushes by the leash.
Finn will remain at this stage for a few more lessons. Over time, a few changes will take place.
1) He’ll be expected to turn in to his handler and to choose to work more quickly. If he does not, he’ll be returned to his crate and given another opportunity after a time out.
2) His handler will learn to make the work very interesting, so that Finn receives an additional bonus for choosing to work. Right now, the heeling is boring (on purpose) so Finn is choosing between earning a reward (cookie or toy or praise) and the distractions of the world. When he masters that, he’ll receive a new reason to work; the work itself will draw his attention.
3) He’ll be expected to work for extended periods of time before receiving his reward of either praise/play, a treat, or a toy. Right now the work in only a few seconds.
As his ability to choose to work improves, so will the expectations that are placed on him.
Never confuse positive training with permissive, “slow to progress”, or boring. Good positive training has all of the qualities of good traditional training – high expectations, consequences, and both handler and dog responsibilities.