Teaching in Silence, does it work? Find out here and then try for yourself.
So what is the benefit of teaching in silence?
I mostly teach in silence because I have found that the puppy picks things up much quicker once it starts to focus on you and think. You can actually see the dog trying different behaviours to see whether it will work and he will get what he wants. In effect, it is shaping in the same way that some clicker training works. Our speech is, in effect, just white noise most of the time.
I find the dog is calmer and that the learning is more stable. Mainly, I think, because the dog has started to build their own neural pathways in their brain.
When I do not use silence?
Praise is not silent and always comes with a smile.
There are certain situations when a dog will need constant reassurance that they have got it right. For instance, when I am starting with a tiny puppy, I always start the ‘walking on a loose lead’ training without a lead at all (remember I am at the person’s house and we are not in a field). We teach the puppy where the zone of reinforcement is located and progress as fast at the puppy’s pace. But sometimes, if I visit an older puppy for the first time or an older dog and they are already going out regularly, I don’t want to feed a constant stream of treats, so I will utilise a very happy ‘yes’ or ‘Good boy/girl’ when the dog is in the correct position.
I also use the specific word if I am trying to capture a naturally occurring behaviour that I will later want to put on command. For instance, ‘speak’ or a command that tells the dog, I want it to go to the toilet.
I don’t usually use silence for a recall either. I still only say the word once whether I am teaching it as a fun game or I am using conditioning.
Stay is another command that I use right from the beginning if I am actually going to use a word. For some people, a Sit or Down will mean the dog stays in that position until released. In this situation the word ‘stay’ is not required.
Commands suitable for teaching in silence
Here are a list of behaviours I regularly teach without words at the beginning:
Do not to enter a room
Not to go through a door
Stay in the cage, even if the door is open
Not to go upstairs
Release the toy
On your bed, or in your cage.
When to add the word.
Science has taught us the optimum point to add the command. Therefore, when I think the dog has got the behaviour reliably, I will add the verbal command at the point the behaviour starts. For instance, if the dog is going to sit, say it at the point the body starts to move into position.
However, I often feel that by commanding our dogs, they are reactive to that and wait for the command. If you let them work it out using cues from their environment, I think they become better mannered, calmer and able to make the right decisions. This leaves one less thing for the owner to think about. In this day and age when life is busy and stressful, one less thing to think about is very welcome.
Interesting blog and experiment for you.
Jill Breitner has written an interesting article for Dogster with an experiment for you using body language. Here is a link: Dogster
So have a go at teaching in silence and let me know how you get on. If you want some help with how to do it, just send me a message.
Remember to make training fun for both of you and use very short training sessions. Your dog will be happier and learn quicker, I promise.
From Peaceful Pups.