Many dog sports, like agility, dock jumping, dog disc, and obedience, require that a dog be confident in order to be successful. Sports that have the dogs work independently rely on confident performances, sometimes far away from the handler.
Dogs that display this kind of confidence while working must know their jobs and must also trust that they will be allowed to perform without consequence. A dog that is asked to work away from the handler in agility, for example, will do his job with greater confidence and speed if he knows that his efforts will be rewarded and received positively. Concern over being corrected will negatively impact his performance. Some dogs have personalities that allow them some level of success despite being corrected in practice, but others will simply not leave the handlers’ side for fear of being wrong. (Not all dogs who stay close to the handler have been corrected – there are many reasons for this behavior, so don’t assume that a close-working dog has been treated or trained poorly.)
Yelling “No” at your dog is one very obvious correction that you should try to avoid. “No” has no place in dog sports. Try not to use No at home for behavioral transgressions and drop it from your competitive dog training vocabulary. You may choose to use a marker to indicate that a dog’s choice incorrect, although this may also intimidate some dogs. If you do wish to use this kind of marker, make it a word that’s hard to say negatively. “Good Try” “Try again,” “Whoops,” and “Nope,” are potential choices.
Repetitions and reactions of disappointment can also be corrections to some dogs. Be careful with how you repeat exercises (starting over may be better than just trying to fix things “in the moment”) and closely monitor the way your dog responds to your training. Record your training sessions and have a trainer or experienced handler watch your dogs for signs of drops in confidence or negative reactions to your training methods.
Say NO to using negatives when training for confident canines!