Ask Yourself – Are You Setting Your Dog Training Up For Success?

Last night this cute little guy was my demonstration puppy in a behavior class. As he and his parents found seats in the back of the room, I had them put him on the ground. There he was a bundle of happy-go-lucky spirit so excited by the new smells and friendly humans that surrounded him. His tail was wagging back and forth as he went from person to person, sniffing the floor, soliciting attention.

I asked the question, “In that moment, would I be setting him up for failure or for success if I asked him to do a behavior he did not yet dog training with positive reinforcementhave on cue in distracting environments?” (or something like that)

There was a resounding answer coming from the tables..”failure.”

That was exactly the answer I was looking for. That question is such an important one to ask ourselves often when it comes to our expectations with our pet. As teachers, it is up to us to make our classroom conducive to learning for our students.

Some of the ways we set our pet up for success are by teaching in an environment where he is not distracted beyond his abilities to remain focused and at a time when he is motivated for learning, breaking the behavior down into approximations our pet can easily learn (please see my post on shaping), and using reinforcers that are of value to our student.

Some of the ways we may set our pet up for failure are repeating a cue over and over again (a sign that our pet does not know the behavior well enough),  not managing the environment to prevent practice of unwanted behavior, not spending the time to thoroughly teach and proof behaviors with a variety of criteria (only proceeding as our pet shows us he is able to succeed), not making the choice we want our pet to make the most valuable choice for them, and  asking for the behavior in an environment that has strong competing reinforcers which your pet has learned offer greater value than listening to you, and trying to teach at a time when our pet does not have the motivation.

In last night’s classroom, if I had asked my demo puppy to sit when he just came into a new environment with so many fun things to explore my chances of getting his focus would have been greatly diminished.

When I did most of my demonstration work with him was later in the class when he was able to focus…and then he came when I called, he sat quickly when asked, he walked on a loose leash at my side around people (with reinforcement from me), and I was able to teach him to stay seated while someone approached.


Dog Training – Teaching Skills With Find It Game

When you make learning fun, you get an enthusiastic student. In this game of Find It (or I call it ‘Go Get It’), I am training our family dog, Sam, with lots of positive reinforcement to sit, stay, release, get it, come (recall).

Training Your Dog For A Stress-Free, Beg-Free Thanksgiving

There is no meal of the year that quite compares to that of Thanksgiving. As you’re preparing for your Thanksgiving, if you do not want your dog begging at the dinner table, the time to plan for success is now.

Remember if a behavior reoccurs it is because it has been reinforced. So, if you know in advance that your dog’s bumping at the table behavior is very probable, here are a few ideas:

dog training tips to prepare for ThanksgivingYou can use antecedent strategies (rearranging what happens in the environment immediately before the behavior is set into motion) to give less value to the bumping behavior and more value to resting. Some suggestions include satiating your dog BEFORE you sit down by feeding him in advance or redirecting his attention by giving him a tasty steak bone to chew on or a foraging toy that will keep his attention for awhile, or taking him for a long walk prior to the meal.

You can also teach your dog in advance an alternative behavior that will produce for him the same or more value than what he would get if he bumped you at the table – while removing any positive consequences to the bumping behavior. As his teacher, his ability to learn is dependent on your reliability (and EVERYONE in your household) to quickly reinforce the behavior you want to see – and every time he does the behavior in the beginning.

So, begin by teaching the alternative behavior (like sitting or laying down). Once on cue you can shape the behavior for longer durations before delivering reinforcement. Then, you can cue him to do the wanted behavior before you sit down to a meal and reinforce it. At the same time, if he begs, you can simply push your plate in to the center of the table and turn your back to him while sitting. Practice. Practice Practice.

Always make the wanted behavior easier and more valuable than the unwanted behavior.


Preventing Dog From Dashing Out The Door

I don’t practice Sam’s waiting at the door because I want to dominate him. I practice because self control is a great skill to have and in the case of a doorway, can keep him safe. Besides lessons are a great bonding and enrichment exercise.

My Challenge To Dog & Other Pet Owners

quote about dog training

Why is it that I tend to see magical, upbeat energy in pet caregivers when teaching their dog tricks; but when they are teaching their dog behaviors like sit, stay and loose leash walking, they are serious because their dog needs to comply? I want to issue a challenge for pet caregivers everywhere…

To think about every behavior as a trick.

After all, behavior is behavior. And you’ll be amazed at the difference in your student’s focus and ability.

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