(910) 939-8826 TheMatsonPack@gmail.com

*This page contains affiliate links. when you click on these links and make a purchase through the site, we will gain a commission in return at no additional cost to you. The companies that we affiliate with are companies that we use, trust, and highly recommend. We appreciate any purchases you make using our affiliate links.*

The Importance of Timing

Trainers will often harp on their students when they are going through a basic dog obedience course about the importance of timing in dog training. The reason why trainers stress this important aspect of dog training is due to the amount of effect that it has on the actual outcome of a dog’s behavior.

Sometimes the difference between a well behaved dog and a dog who is constantly getting into trouble is the timing of the rewards and corrections that happen after the dog displays a certain behavior.

So why is timing so important in dog training and why do trainers stress this point so much? The reason why is because dogs are constantly making associations based upon the actions and behaviors that they do and the consequences of those actions both good and bad.

The dogs learning process is known as operant conditioning and takes place every waking second that the dog has starting from the moment they are born.

“The best example to describe the importance of timing and how dogs learn with it is to use the example of a stove.”

This is what makes dogs such amazing learners and why they are masters of using body language to communicate with one another.

The only drawback to a dogs learning is that they are unable to connect consequences with past actions, even if those actions only happened a few seconds prior to the consequence.

The best example to describe the importance of timing and how dogs learn with it is to use the example of a stove.

If you are a child and you touch a hot stove you immediately make the connection that the hot stove is what caused the pain in your finger, you are then less likely to touch the hot stove again in the future as you draw the conclusion that the hot stove is what caused the pain.

Now let’s say you are a child that touches the hot stove but for some magical reason you do not feel the pain right away due to a delay, you exit the kitchen and go to play with some toys on the ground.

Once you pick up the toy and handle it you feel the pain from the stove start to burn your hand. 

In this example you as a child with no understanding of delayed consequence will naturally draw the conclusion that touching the toys is what caused the pain rather than the stove.

This is how dogs learn to draw conclusions and make associations about their environment. Humans have the advantage of communication in order to make sense of consequences that happen long after an action has occurred.

For example, you know that the Mexican food you ate last night is causing you to have an upset stomach due to what you have learned from other humans and their experiences.

Dogs are incapable of drawing these conclusions and so the timing of the consequences need to be spot on.

“It is important to reward a dog at the moment that they are displaying an appropriate behavior rather than rewarding them after the fact.”

This reason is exactly why many punishment type methods do not work in dog training. Punishments are different from corrections due to them happening after the fact.

The best example to describe a punishment is an owner who comes home to find their dog pooped on the floor and then proceeds to rub the dog’s nose in it. The dog is unable to make the connection between pooping on the floor and being punished, instead the dog begins to associate the owners return home with the punishment and may develop separation anxiety or other behavioral issues.

This is far different from a correction that stops the behavior in its tracks.

Timing is not solely important to punishment type consequences but is also important to reinforcement-based consequences. It is important to reward a dog at the precise moment that they are displaying an appropriate behavior rather than rewarding them after the fact.

If a person was trying to teach a dog to sit and the dogs sat the owner needs to reward the dog with a treat before the dog either gets up or lays down.

If the owner were to reward the dog while the dog is doing something other than sitting, then the dog would not create the association between the sit and the reward.

This mistake can make many owners frustrated as they may be rewarding inappropriate behavior simply because the reward was given at the wrong time. 

Many owners are unable to time rewards and corrections to the appropriate behavior that the dog is displaying. It is a very hard skill to master and is not one that comes overnight, even an experienced dog trainer may have bad timing on occasion. Thankfully, there is a solution to this issue, it is called marker training.

“Once you understand the timing you can better understand why your dog makes the choices that they make.”

Training using markers is a way to successfully bridge the time gap and help the dog connect actions to consequences, thus giving the owner additional time to give a reward or a correction to the dog while still helping the dog associate what actions brought about those consequences.

Knowing the importance of timing and how it relates to dog training can be a vital tool in anyone’s toolbox. Once you understand the timing you can better understand why your dog makes the choices that they make.

You will notice that your dog will display behaviors that directly benefit them in the moment, while simultaneously avoiding behaviors and actions that would be disadvantageous.

Your dog is a wonderful and intelligent creature, you just need to understand why it behaves the way it does.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Share This

Share this post with your friends!