Life is busy. Work, children, partners, friends, household chores.… Sometimes our busy modern lives get in the way of things we know we should be doing – like going to the gym or training our dogs – and we end up feeling guilty because another day has gone by and we haven’t got round to it. Going to the gym I can’t help you with, but finding a flexible, easy way to build teaching your dog into your day, I can!
There’s a really simple, powerful way to teach our dogs what behaviours we want without having to find the time for formal training sessions. It’s called SMART 50 training and it’s outlined in Kathy Sdao’s wonderful book “Plenty in Life is Free”.
SMART, or See Mark And Reward Training, can be summarised as follows –
“Fifty times each day reward your dog for doing something you want to see more of”
Each morning set out a bowl with around 50 small treats in it. You can use some of your dog’s daily food allowance for this instead of feeding it in a bowl. Then –
- SEE the wanted behaviour – train your eye to notice when your dog is doing something you’d like to see more of….for example being settled quietly, or having 4 feet on the floor, or standing calmly in front of you, or giving you eye contact, or walking calmly on the lead, or coming when called, sitting when asked etc.
- MARK the wanted behaviour – ‘mark’ means to use a clicker or consistent marker word (something short, clear & concise like ‘good’, ‘yes’, ‘nice’) the instant the dog offers the behaviour you like. We’re pointing out the good behaviour to the dog and helping him learn exactly what behaviour is earning him a treat.
- REWARD the wanted behaviour – what gets rewarded gets repeated so paying your dog well for offering wanted behaviours will increase the strength & frequency of those behaviours in the future. And the more wanted behaviour we get the less unwanted behaviour we get. Win – win.
Your goal is to empty the bowl by the end of the day. You can choose to reinforce only one goal behaviour or simply reward any wanted behaviour (this is my preference). If you do this daily within a week you’ll have reinforced 350 instances of good behaviour. Within a month 1,500 instances. Maintain the habit for a year and you’ll have reinforced over 18,000 wanted behaviours. It’s a simple, easy, effective way to train on the hoof without setting aside specific time and it has a real impact on behaviour.
SMART 50 trains the human end of the lead as much as the canine end – it teaches us to notice & reward the good instead of that all too human trait of focusing on the negative. Seeking out the positive has a profound effect on our own attitudes and well being and it’s a habit that can spill over into other aspects of our lives with beneficial effects.
Try it for a two weeks and see what happens. And let me know…I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Happy Training x