Now to answer an unanswered question from last week; when exactly DO I use a NRM? The answer is I only use a NRM if, by not using one, the dog can earn reinforcement. Routinely I can only think of two examples in my training (in the value testing stage) where that may occur.

The first scenario is in agility for a wrong entry. As soon as I seen the wrong choice has been made I will use an “Ooops!” for my dog. If I send my dog to a set of weave poles and the dog enters at the 3 pole and I say nothing the act of weaving will reward that incorrect entry.  Weaving, for the dog, has be conditioned to mean a reward occurs at the end.  The act of weaving is allowed only if the correct weave entry is acheived. It is a chain, you get the first part of the chain you earn the right to drive through the rest of the chain to your reward at the end.

Those people (and I have met many) who believe you should never take a dog out (once he has started the poles) but rather allow him to finish and start the weave poles again are making a serious error. I understand why people do this, it is because they want to teach a dog once you start weaving you never leave the poles. But by doing this you are in fact reinforcing the dog for missing his entry. I have seen many dogs that never have reliable weave pole entries in competition because of the reinforcement they received for not entering correctly.

For some dogs the reinforcement is the chance to carry on weaving, for others it is the big outrun they do after they are told the entry was incorrect. The dog is stealing reinforcement from his environment and that reinforcement is what grows the response of missing weave entries.

You need to question a dog that doesn’t come right back to you after he hears a NRM. Why would a dog do that? My opinion is the answer is stress. What does that NRM mean to the dog. The goal for my dogs is that a NRM means “you are close, try something different and the next time may earn your reinforcement”

If one of my dogs is given a NRM in training she actually will drive back to me as fast or faster then she sped away. The dog will come directly to me and often line herself up to be sent to try again.  I have often wondered why that is, and why others don’t have that same response from their dogs. But before I share my thoughts I put it back to you.  What is your dog’s response when he hears a NRM? What happens to his enthusiasm for work? Does he come back to you and if so does he come back fast and happy ready to try again?

Next question why do you think my dogs do drive back lightning fast lining up to try again when they hear the word “oops”?

Hmmm, I had no idea this discussion would go on so long, but lots to think about before you think about training!

Today I am grateful that there is a sale on airline tickets traveling between the UK and Canada. As I work on getting “that puppy” (either Penny’s or mine) and her breeder over here it is nice to see the price has dropped for her by almost 70%!