Using Training Aids for Speedier Success
Some trainers seem to be naturally gifted.
Their dogs learn fast and it seems like they communicate almost effortlessly with their dog. So, how do they do it?
Most likely? They use training aids… and they use them well.
What is a training aid? It’s anything a handler uses to communicate criteria to a dog when training a behavior.
Want to find out more about some of the props I use for training?
Watch the video!
If you’ve used luring, markers, or reinforcement you’ve used training aids to communicate with your dog (whether you knew it or not). Props — like platforms, pivot bowls, and gates — also serve as training aids.
We all have limited time to train from an unlimited selection of behaviors. Choosing methods that convey criteria quickly and allow the dog to offer behavior without the use of lures or hand cues gives us a great advantage!
I often use a number of props in my training, including standing platforms, pivot platforms, targets (including target sticks) and training gates or other barriers (special thanks to Michele Pouliot, Morten Egtvedt, and Fanny Gott for training inspiration with some of these).
The best props are those that guide the dog, showing him the path to reinforcement, while producing accurate and precise behaviors.
When using props:
- Criteria can be communicated quickly
- Accuracy and precision are built into the process
- The dog is able to meet criteria with minimal mistakes
- The need for active lures or ambiguous body cues is eliminated
- The process of adding a verbal cue is much faster
- Props allow for more frequent rewards for correct responses, which then builds value in the behavior faster, creates a pattern of correct responses, and (ultimately) creates a confident dog
The result is a faster learning process with fewer incorrect responses and stronger behavior.
By using these tools, along with shaping and a marker system, the endless number of behaviors that we train for freestyle and Rally-FrEe are a little less daunting and a lot more precise.
In short, props give us precision and accuracy and give our dogs clarity and reinforcement. A win-win!
Of course, all training aids need to be removed – lures, food, hand cues, clickers… even reinforcement needs to be reduced to a point where we can compete without it. But I have found the many perks of training with props far outweigh the work required to apply a process of removal.