Lets Talk Jackpots!
What are they?
"Jackpots" are exactly what they sound like. Think fun, think BIG, think a little bit of chaos, think BIG PAYOUTS!
But what's the point? Why are they used?
Jackpots are used to really build a dog's reinforcement history with an atypical amount or kind of treats so that the dog finds that particular skill or training scenario highly reinforcing.
When I am at the beginning of a training journey with a dog, I like to start jackpotting as soon as we run into more challenge and frustration than they're used to. It doesn't have to be a skill that I consider particularly big or amazing or difficult. If I notice a dog having a little bit of a hard time, I know that they haven't yet developed great problem-solving skills, or I know that they have pretty low frustration tolerance - I WILL BE JACKPOTTING!
I'm going to jackpot for you choosing to stay and interact with me through the hard stuff and if I mess up and ask you for something too difficult or we've been training for too long at a time and you let me know- I'm going to call you back for one more round, I'm going to drop my criteria so what I'm asking for is easier, and I'm going to give you a nice jackpot before we end that session.
What do these types of interactions do?
They tell my dog that it's worth sticking it out and trying one more time when things get tough. They learn that I'm going to be paying attention and reacting accordingly when they tell me they're having a hard time. IT MAKES THEM EXCITED TO DO THE HARD THING THE NEXT TIME AROUND! It has the power to completely change their emotional response to a certain activity or situation. In other words - big, big stuff!
"How do I use jackpots in my dog's training?"
Jackpots are useful for all different kinds of scenarios. I like to use jackpots to reinforce success that comes right behind a "too tough" moment.
You can (and should) jackpot for big milestone moments.
Been working on proofing a new skill to greater distance and got reliable behavior from 5 feet away? JACKPOT!
In a social situation that has proven in the past to be really difficult for your dog to manage their emotions and this time they chose to look at you for guidance? JACKPOT moment!
Did you mess up by training for too long or asking for something too difficult? Saw your dog's frustration? They did it anyway? JACKPOT!! Were they not able to do it and the frustration overcame them? Ask for something they can do, then JACKPOT, and end your session.
There are really very few wrong ways to use a jackpot. Obviously, don't use it for everything - after all, a big part of the thing that makes it a jackpot is that it only happens sometimes. But you don't have to save it for one magical moment a month.
A lot of what we ask our dogs to do is tough for them.
*Even if it "shouldn't be" *Even if we "don't think it's that hard" *Even if we "don't understand why they're struggling"
None of that matters. If your dog is showing you that they're struggling, then they're struggling. You making things harder for them isn't what makes good training. You making it worth while, building your dog's confidence, moving at their pace, and paying what their "try" is WORTH... That's what makes for good training!
So don't be shy! Find something you can JACKPOT your dog for today!