Good timing is critical to success. When we wait and then react to a dog’s behavior, we are always going to be behind the eight ball. On the other hand. influencing a dog’s emotional process before he acts is an incredibly efficient manner in which to train him. When timing is correct nervousness is inhibited and drive is reinforced.
Also, since we’re affecting the internal emotional process, the dog in effect “chooses” to be calm rather than being forced to be under control. A dog so trained will be mannerly or mindful of domestic restraints even when his handler isn’t near.
The key to proper timing is not quickness, although that is a valuable asset. Rather, the key is anticipation. The handler should always be thinking ahead and anticipating what the dog might do next. It is a skill easily acquired if one becomes disciplined enough to pay constant attention to the dog. Without good timing, training degenerates into a question of strength.
By being relentlessly focused on the dog, the handler will start to sense the dog’s rhythm of actions and be able to anticipate what the dog is about to do. Then, before the dog acts, the handler can already be in gear taking steps to predetermine what the dog will do next. The dog will be choosing to obey; however, since we’re controlling his instinctive emotional process, there won’t really be any choice involved.
For example, if you are training a dog to heel you should watch his head very closely. When you sense he is about to shift his attention away from you then make a shock on the collar and begin to praise the dog at the same time. Additionally, pick up your pace, and to complete the process, throw a ball for him to chase or give him a food treat.
In this sequence of events, I’m not correcting the dog for being disobedient, I’m shocking the nervousness that I feel is about to influence the dog’s behavior and disrupt his focus on me. The praise, food, and the ball then serve to convert the shock to a stimulation. Since I’m the source of the excitement, the dog’s calm focus on me from which he was about to stray is renewed and reinforced.
I like to emphasize the point about timing with the following analogy. Suppose you were a therapist assigned to help a heavy drinker recover from alcoholism. When would be the best time to influence this person’s pattern of behavior – before, or after he decided to gulp down a drink? The very same question is before the dog trainer: Is it best to react to a dog’s behavior or is it better to take the initiative and ensure that the dog always performs appropriately? Why wait for a negative behavior to express itself?