Neutrality, Patience, Observation, Adjustments – the Keys to Successful Dog Training

ATNeutralI am just like you. I want my dog to perform well.

But, I am neutral to success or failures when training an animal. What I mean is, during training sessions, I don’t care if the dog obeys, or does not obey.

It’s okay if the dog performs as asked. It’s okay if the dog does not perform.

If the dog obeys, great! I know that with this dog at this point in time, in this context, my current training plan, methods and strategies are effective.

If the dog does not obey, great! I know that with this dog, at this point in time, in this context, my current training plan, methods and strategies are ineffective. Now I know what does not work and I’ll make adjustments and try again.

Emotions interefere with thinking. One must separate the two in order to be an excellent animal trainer. If I become emotional, frustrated, it clouds my ability to think, observe and adjust.

Voluntary behaviors are like common stock. There are 3 possible “directions”. Over time, a behavior can increase (in frequency of occurances and magnitude), decrease or remain the same.

Observe, analyize, adjust.
All good trainers log instances of the target behavior and record the frequency of the behavior over time. Then we make adjustments until the frequency of the behavior is as desired.

If the behavior is increasing or maintaining the same frequency today as yesterday, I know that something in the environment is triggering the behavior. I know the immediate consequence is a reinforcer.

If the behavior is decreasing in frequency (occurs kess today than yesterday), I know that something in the environment is distracting the dog or triggering another behavior, and/or I know the immediate consequence is a punisher.

If you want to modify a behavior (increase or decrease the frequency), you will make adjustments in the environment before the behavior, and make adjustments in the consequences during or immediately after the behavior.

If the behavior is unwanted, naughty behavior, you should ask youself exactly what do you want the dog TO do and where should she do it? This is the alternate behavior. Identify all the components and teach and practice the alternate behavior.

For instance, let’s discuss “dog jumps up on guests” behavior. The behavior is strong and occurs as often today as it did yesterday.

Your first step is to prevent the dog from practicing this rude greeting.

Identify the triggers in the environment. Dog is untrained, in the same area as guests, and is not restrained. Change any one of these three triggers and the behavior will be reduced in frequency.

Identify the immediate consequences. Guests probably touch or praise the dog, or reach out with their hands and
push. You may be grabbing the dog’s collar and / or saying “off”. All of these immediate consequences are not helpful, because the behavior is strong.

If your response is anger or frustration, you are off track, and will have a difficult time fixing the problem.

The solution for “jumping up on guests” behavior:
Prevent the behavior by attaching a leash before guests enter your home. Set aside time to train your dog, when you can control the distractions. Teach and practice an alternate behavior such as go-to-place, sit, spin, “parade with toy”.

Most importantly, be neutral so you can observe, think, adjust and succeed!

Happy Training!