Timing is one of the primary ways your dog understands how their action or inaction led to a reward or correction.
Dogs think in pictures and take a mental snapshot of the 'Picture' when they receive reinforcement or correction.
For example, if you were to tell your dog 'Down' and then reward them while they are still hovering with their forearms above the ground, the picture your dog sees that makes up the 'Down' command is:
- This position is performed facing in front of you.
- This position takes place in the living room.
- Body positioning requires my rear end on the ground and forearms above the ground, but not touching.
Amongst the dog training community, most agree that delivering a reward or correction within 1.3 seconds is the optimal time window for communicating your response to your dog's behavior.
To have accurate timing, you must know the specific criteria for the behavior that you are looking for from your dog. Then, you must "mark" it with a reward or correction within the 1.3 second time window.
Ultimately, if you accurately time your rewards and corrections, your dog's understanding of their commands will skyrocket.
Although this pillar can be challenging and frustrating, remember that consistency and repetition are the keys to success.
Here are some tips to help:
- Film yourself training with your dog. Doing so allows you to review your sessions and provides an opportunity to see if your timing is too fast, too slow, or right on time.
- Practice free-shaping with your dog. Successful free-shaping will test your ability to set clear criteria for behavior and requires precise timing to reach your end goal.
- Do NOT punish your dog for behavior done outside of the 1.3 second time window. For example, if your dog chews up your shoes or eats something off of the counter while you are not paying attention, it is unfair to correct them for that behavior.