I have a somewhat neurotic poodle, who is one of Melbourne’s many ‘iso-puppies’. He consequently lacked the opportunity to attend puppy training because, before we knew it, we were slammed into multiple lockdowns over a two-year period making any sort of momentum-gaining in dog training near-impossible.
I now find myself puppy-training-cramming, as the dog trainer is coming over tomorrow and I was supposed to have been practicing ‘visitor training’ for the past few weeks (before life got in the way).
Enter my daughter – who I quickly recruited to help with the cramming. I had to quickly brief her with the hand gestures, reward timing, and correct commands before I stepped out the door and pretended to be a visitor. I had my fingers crossed that she would hopefully remember my instructions and at the very least, not undo the few attempts at practicing I had already done. Standing on the other side of the front door, waiting for my cue to ring the doorbell, I heard her struggling with him. I bit my tongue in offering help. And she persisted with him. Then, as she approached the door to open it for me, she remembered she forgot to reward him for waiting, so back she went to rectify the situation. I silently waited not-so-patiently, exercising restraint, trying not to catastrophise that the dog would be getting confused by my daughter’s attempts at training, and forecasting that, as a result, we’d never have a peaceful dog when visitors come over. But alas, as my daughter opened the door to me, her visitor, I was greeted with a puppy sitting perfectly and listening to her commands. And the pride on my daughter’s face made it all worthwhile.
- Don’t expect perfection and don’t be critical of their attempts at tasks. If a child is met with critical feedback every time they try something new or tricky, they’ll not only stop trying, but they’ll also lose confidence in themselves more generally, and start talking to themselves in that critical voice.
- Set them up for success – give your child tasks that are easy for them to complete. Think of things they can already do, and start there.
- Use ‘chaining’ for tricky tasks – Chaining is where we break down a task into steps and then have the child perform the first step, while we perform the rest. You can also do this in reverse, where you do the first steps, and your child gets to do the last step (often this is the fun way of doing it – so they’ll get to push the ‘start’ button on the washing machine, or get the satisfaction of tying a bow by pulling through that last loop). Slowly, the child will perform more and more steps in the chain until they’re doing it all.
- Be patient! Let them take their time and let them fumble without stepping in unless they really need you to.