A Very Bonnie Christmas – part 2



In the run up to Christmas we’re all busy; it might feel necessary to put training on the back burner, even though its important to you. This week Bonnie and her family have been working on a very special protocol and have already managed no less than 700 training repetitions/learning points between them in informal, daily sessions.

Seriously. Sound impossible?

SMART-50 is a clear, readily implemented technique devised by Kathy Sdao, an inimitable woman who wrote one of my favourite books “Plenty in Life is Free – Reflections on Dogs and Finding Grace” (read it if you can, it’s beautiful). The book affords many an insight, but I’ll give you a head start on what we’re working specifically on here.

See Mark And Reward Training (SMART) achieves several things in its purity. Put simply, Kathy asks you to train your eye to notice, acknowledge the good your dog is already doing, and reinforce it. How amazing. You can do this anywhere, too.

This week Bonnie’s mums;
*counted 50 healthy, high value treats out each, and each day
*looked for opportunities to reward Bonnie for good behaviour, either requested or already offered
*marked the behaviour using a clicker they had already spent a session learning how to use (you can use a verbal marker too)
*reinforced Bonnie for a variety of behaviour throughout the days/week

This yields powerful, and almost immediate benefits.

Firstly it’s just fun. Julie and Margaret have made a competition out of it, seeing who can reinforce the most behaviours, the winner has dinner bought for them at the end of the week. Bonnie is having a whale of a time and is learning fast what works for her and what doesn’t. (three guesses to the kind of choices Bonnie makes more of these days…) It’s transferable in the environment, respectful, ethical, builds trust and confidence in our dogs and the most wonderful side effect of all? It will change the way you view your animal; you will start to see that your dog is really well behaved a lot of the time.

We’re wired to look for fault, to see the negative, to notice the bad. By consistently looking for the best in your dog, marking it, and rewarding it, not only will you see an increase in those behaviours you do want, but you’ll FEEL differently about him or her. It blows my mind watching it happen and it makes my heart sing; it’s glorious.

Next we’ll talk through the wealth of information available in a short video where Bonnie’s mums implement SMART 50 and discuss where we’ll go from there.

Try it this week…it doesn’t need to be 50 a day if that daunts you, even half of that is enough to make a difference. Most of us have better behaved dogs than we give them or ourselves credit for.

Happy training.

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