Getting the behavior I want
I use a combination of training techniques mainly based on reward and positive reinforcement and techniques called luring and shaping, also techniques based on motivation through play, praise and reward .
To get Bella to perform a task/trick on command there are 3 things that need to happen.....
1 - get Bella to perform the task.. possibly using luring/shaping
2 - reward/reinforce for performing the task
3 - name the task
LURING - luring is done with food, I hold the treat in front of Bella's nose and slowly move the treat to get her to do what I want - simple! so for an easy example if I am teaching sit, hold the treat at the nose and slowly move it backwards over the head and Bella will naturally sit. I can also lure by using praise/encouragement. I prefer to use luring rather than shaping as its the dog making the choice to do it on their own but I do often use a combination of both.
SHAPING - shaping is where I gently physically place Bella in the position I want, most people already use shaping without realising it, for example I want Bella to give a paw, I would lift the paw up to where I want it, then she will get the idea and eventually do it herself. Shaping is NOT about forcing Bella into a position she is reluctant to do, I never do that, its about GENTLY persuading her and rewarding her for her efforts.
NAMING THE TASK - once I have Bella performing a task and she is doing it consistently I then name/add a command to the task, I simply do this by saying the word/command WHILST she is performing the task, its no good saying the command first and expecting Bella to know what I want her to do, she has to associate the command with the task first, then she will know what it means when I ask for it by name/command.
REWARD/REINFORCE - I use positive rewards to reinforce commands, Bella does the task - she gets a treat reward, she does a task particularly well then she gets what I call 'jackpot' = lots of treats. I do not use negative reinforcement or aversive techniques to train Bella, she is very sensitive (typical of cocker spaniels) and if I use negative aspects I wont keep her on track and focused and I could ruin all the hard work we have done - not to mention the damage it could do to Bella's behaviour, she responds so well to positive rewards so there is no need at all to use negative/punishments.
CORRECTING MISTAKES - if Bella makes a mistake or doesn't complete a command, I simply do not reward her and ask her again, I do not chastise her or punish her. Bella knows the word 'NO' so if she goes to do the wrong thing, I say 'no' and repeat the command, she usually gets its right the second time. There is no need to correct mistakes with force or by physical interaction, if I don't reward an unwanted behavior Bella will soon know it wasn't what I wanted and this way she is using her brain to work it out for herself.
With training LESS IS MORE! - say what I mean …. and mean what I say … simple!!! There's no need for me to complicate commands by using lots of words or hand signals, keeping it simple is a road to success. I want to train Bella to listen to me and I don't want to train myself to shout and give multiple commands. My voice tone is firm and the volume is conversational, if I have to shout or repeat commands, Bella knows I am not in control and that's a step towards disaster. One of the challenges is making sure I give Bella a command only if I am able to follow through and reinforce it.
Meaning every command is essential, I would be doing Bella no favours by giving wishy washy, half hearted commands and letting her decide if she should comply! I don't give a command three times and say 'never mind' if Bella doesn't carry it out!
I have the attitude that its a command NOT a suggestion, I give commands calmly and EXPECT Bella to comply - I have this attitude from the start and it gives off an 'air' of authority that Bella can sense and it makes her feel secure.
I ALWAYS set up Bella for success whenever possible, I make things easier any way I can so that she has the best chance to consistently do it right, then by getting things right it gives Bella the confidence to go further in her training.
Setting up for success also means I NEVER give a command I can't reinforce and I make sure I follow through and Bella carries out EVERY command. By consistently rewarding the right response, it doesn't take Bella long to understand that whether she complies straight away or I gently insist, my command has to be finished, also in doing this she never has to wonder who is in charge so its another way to show my leadership.
I try and allow Bella to learn at her own individual pace, especially while she is still essentially a young dog, her emotional maturity will come and that will make her even better at learning - so I have all that to look forward to!