Dog Fights are Scary – Interdog Aggression

dog_fightIt’s scary when dogs in the same household fight. The solutions can be as simple as feeding the dogs in different areas, or as complex as implementing a behavior modification plan for inter dog aggression.

Your first steps are to identify triggers and situations when the dogs are more likely to fight. Manage the environment so the fights are less likely.

Remove high value toys and food items; avoid situations that are known to trigger fights. This means you may have to kennel one, or both, dogs. If your dogs are not keen on kenneling, you will need to teach them to relax in the kennel.

Each dog should be able to to perform these basic obedience commands:

Look, Here, Sit, Down, Stay, Go-to-Place

To teach these commands, you’ll need a conditioned reward marker, and a reward system.

Obedience training, the reward system, and a conditioned reward marker are very important communication and motivation tools. These will increase your relevance to your dogs, and the dogs will begin to listen to you, and think about their behaviors.

The aforementioned tools and steps will create a healthy relationship.

After you have developed a relationship, you can work with your dogs, using specific triggers.


Short Dog Training Sessions Should End With Success

ShortsessionsI always ask my clients to practice with their dogs during short sessions throughout the day. For puppies and dogs that are learning look and sit (the first 2 commands), I recommend 5 sessions each day, for 60 seconds per session.

As the dog is introduced to more commands, such as here, stay and down, the sessions will be  longer. How you end the longer sessions makes a difference!

Cool down before ending a session. During your short teaching sessions, respect the fact that learning a new task or raising the difficulty for a task (for example- practicing ‘stays’ with more distractions or increased duration) can be somewhat stressful for your dog.

I think it’s somewhat impolite, rude, or disrespectful to “push” your dog’s performance to a very high level and then immediately end the session.

To give your dog a break, end each session with a couple of easy behaviors that your dog already knows. After teaching, hold a play session or go for a walk.

Following this recipe will keep your dog relaxed about learning. He will anticipate the next session with joy! Your main goal is to teach your dog so make it easy for him/her to be successful!

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor and Trainer, Canine Specialization

How’s Bentley – Memphis, Collierville, Germantown TN

21st Century Canine Relationship Solutions

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Methods to “Get” your Dog to Perform a Behavior

Australian Terrier, BentleyBefore you can use positive reinforcement to reward your dog (Food treat, Attention, Touch), you’ll need to get the dog to perform some version of the behavior.

There are many methods to get behavior. Here are some dog-friendly methods.

Capture – good for simple behaviors that are naturally offered, like sit.

Just wait until it is occurring and then reinforce the behavior. Capturing requires patience. 

The trainer must be experienced “setting the stage” for the behavior(s) to occur and the trainer must be ready to reinforce the instant the behavior first occurs or miss that opportunity. Some behaviors may never take place. In addition, the dog may become disinterested before s/he succeeds.

Lure – risk for teaching your dog to perform only when food is present

Use food to get the behavior and then reinforce the behavior. Luring creates an additional risk for creating a dog that only works when food is present. The dog may or may not realize what behaviors s/he is performing because s/he is so focused on the food.

Shape – requires patience and perfect timing skills. Break down the target behavior into many small steps, get and reinforce each step until your dog knows that step, then get and reinforce each of the next steps which are progressively closer to the target behavior. Shaping requires patience and is a slow process (compared to bridge-n-target).

Bridge-N-Target – is the most efficient, but requires more skills from the trainer. Bridge and Target is a component of Syn Alia Training System, developed by Kayce Cover. .

Teach your dog to touch (or touch and hold for duration) a target with the applicable body part(s). This provides your dog with a physical location where success will take place. Communicate the correctness of the behavior(s) while in progress. Communicate a signal to indicate success.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley – Memphis TN

Reactive Dog workshops

iPhone 3Gs Video ** Submissive Dog Behaviors are Not an Indication of Guilt

WilliamWallaceWinkieCommon submissive dog behaviors include lowering of head, tail, body, or rolling over and exposing the underside.

Many people believe they are teaching their dogs by scolding. They place items the dog destroyed into their outstretched hands, fuss at the dogs, and the dogs cower away.

The people support their misbeliefs by the phrase, “She knows what she did because she looked guilty when I held up the item.”

Say, I don’t know what your dog is thinking, nor do you. But I do know this.

Submissive behaviors are not an admission of guilt.  These behaviors are your dog’s way of saying, “Please discontinue your attack, I mean you no harm”.

If you do not believe me, try this. Show your dog an item, any item with no previous relevance to the dog, push it towards your dog and fuss. He or she will react with the same submissive behaviors you see when you are fussing about a naughty event. If the dog knows right and wrong, why did he or she exhibit submissive behaviors when you held an unfamiliar item and fussed?

Teaching by scolding is not very efficient.

It’s like allowing your 3 year old child to run into the street so you can spank him or her. Everyone can agree. That would be ridiculous. Parents of a 3 year old child focus on preventing their 3 year old child from running into the street. They know that one day, the child will be old enough to cross the street without an adult. But now, the kid is too young and “untrained” to be near the street unattended. One day, the parents will teach the child the skills needed to cross the busy street. Until then, the child is closely supervised.

Happy Training!

The dog in the picture is William Wallace Winkie. CLICK HERE to watch a video of Winkie playing outside!

You can adopt this guy from Collierville Animal Services in Collierville TN.

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How’s Bentley Memphis TN

Dog Training & The ABCs of Instrumental Conditioning

Bimmer1There are three distinct pieces to a voluntary behavior, called the ABCs.
The “B” represents the behavior.
“A” is for Antecedent, which is anything present in the environment before a specific behavior. The A precedes the behavior.
“C” is for Consequence, which is the immediate result of the behavior.

Here’s an example of the ABCs of a voluntary behavior.  A dog jumps up on a counter and gets food.

Dog sees and smells food on counter Dog jumps up Dog gets food.

A                                                                 B                         C

  • The A – food is on counter, dog has access to the counter area, dog is hungry
  • The B is the behavior, which is any response to any stimulus.
  • The C is the immediate consequence of the B.

Suppose you would like to reduce “jump up steal food off counter” behavior.

In order to change a voluntary behavior, we modify either the events / environment before the behavior (antecedent), or we modify the events or environment immediately after the behavior (consequence), or both.

You could modify the antecedents and the behavior would be less likely to occur. For Example: attach a leash or tether, place the dog outside of the area, teach the dog to sit or go to place while you make a sandwich, and so forth. Some of the changes could happen immediately, others require that you train your dog.

Now let’s take a look at a few consequences and how they might influence behavior.

Types of Consequences

If consequences are to have an effect on the preceding behaviors, consequences must occur during or immediately after behaviors. Consequences are grouped into two categories, reinforcers or punishers. For consequences to be considered reinforcers or punishers, their effects on behaviors must occur now and anytime in the future when the animal is presented with similar circumstances.

  • Reinforcers increase behaviors.
  • Punishers decrease behaviors.

Consequences can be added or subtracted.

  • A consequence that is added or begins is called a positive consequence.
  • A consequence that is subtracted or stopped is called a negative consequence.

There are four possible consequences for any given behavior. Two of the consequences will increase (or reinforce) the behavior, and the other two will decrease (or punish) the behavior.

  • Positive Reinforcer – add or begin to increase behavior
  • Positive Punisher – add or begin to decrease behavior
  • Negative Punisher – subtract or remove to decrease behavior
  • Negative Reinforcer – subtract or remove to increase behavior

Dog sees and smells food on counter Dog jumps up Dog gets food. In this example, the behavior of “dog jumps up” is being reinforced (assuming the dog likes the food). A stimulus is added and the consequence increases the behavior, therefore the consequence is a positive reinforcer.

Dog sees and smells food on counter Dog jumps up Dog gets squirted with water. In this example, the behavior of “dog jumps up” is being punished (assuming the dog dislikes being squirted with water). A stimulus begins and the consequence decreases the behavior, therefore the consequence is a positive punisher.

Dog sees and smells food on counter Dog jumps up Human makes food disappear. In this example, the behavior of jumping up is being punished (assuming the dog wants the food). A stimulus is subtracted and the consequence decreases the behavior, therefore the consequence is a negative punisher.

Dog on counter is being squirted with water Dog jumps off counter and onto floor Squirting of water is stopped. In this example, the behavior of “the dog being on the floor” is reinforced (assuming the dog dislikes being squirted with water). A stimulus is stopped and the consequence increases the behavior, therefore the consequence is a negative reinforcer. Negative reinforcers usually include escape and avoidance behavior.

Dog friendly training focuses on using positive reinforcement and negative punishment to teach our dogs desirable behaviors. Although we will use all four consequences, dog friendly training focuses on using positive reinforcement and negative punishment to teach our dogs desirable behaviors.


Alan J Turner – Dog Training in Memphis Collierville Germantown TN

How’s Bentley Aggressive Dog Seminar

Dogs and Puppies are Opportunists!

Boston TerrierDogs and puppies are opportunists.

Dogs follow one rule – “What’s in it for me – right now?” Dogs have no concept of right or wrong, good or bad. I do not believe dogs are concerned about yesterday or tomorrow. I believe dogs are interested in the present and how they can get what they want at this instant in time.

Dogs do what they do because their behaviors are instrumental in getting what they desire– period.

Animals perform voluntary behaviors that are instrumental in achieving their immediate goals.

Voluntary behaviors that achieve immediate goals are repeated.

Voluntary behaviors that fail to achieve immediate goals are discontinued.

Therefore, if your dog is constantly barking at you, the dog must have a history of getting what he or she wants by barking at people. Your ultimate goal is to teach your puppy dog a polite way to ask for whatever. The first step now is to prevent your pup from refining rude behaviors.

When your dog barks at you, walk away. This will teach the dog that barking makes you go away, quite the opposite of what he or she desires. Return in a few moments and then give your dog a couple of simple commands, such as Go-To-Place, Sit or Lie Down. Mark the instant your puppy succeeds and then give that rascal some version of FAT.

The idea is to teach your puppy or dog that barking is not the method to get your attention, but Go-To-Place or Lie Down will get your attention!

NOTES: Notice the word, “voluntary” in the post. Behaviors that involve fearful, compulsive, reactive, or aggressive responses are not necessarily voluntary and cannot be modified using the same rules as voluntary behaviors.

There are many different underlying causes for barking, with just as many (or more) solutions to reduce barking. Some solutions are better for some situations and other methods work best in other situations. For example, if your dog is barking at the dog next door, walking away would be useless.


Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley Memphis TN
21st Century Canine Relationship Specialist

Want to Teach Your 10 Week Old Puppy to Sit? Forget About it. :) It’s Too late. . .


SItDid you want to teach your 10 week old puppy to sit? Forget about it. 🙂 It’s too late.

That turbo charged puppy already knows how to perform every basic obedience command!

Your dog knows how to sit and lie down. He can stay.  Your pup knows how to walk towards you. Your puppy knows how to run to you. Your puppy dog can walk the same speed as you. That fellow knows how to dig, or “not dig”. Your puppy can bark, and he knows how to “not bark”.  He can certainly choose to jump up, or “not jump up”.

Your goals are to learn how to communicate to your dog WHEN, WHERE, HOW LONG, and WHY he or she should perform basic commands.  You will succeed if you build a relationship based on clear communication, and well managed rewards for cooperation.

21st Century dogs live in our homes and sleep in our bedrooms. Unlike most of the the last century when dogs were outside pets or workers, raising a dog to live inside your home requires much more than basic obedience.

Your dog’s behaviors are influenced by your behaviors, and the  relationship between you and your dog.

My goal is to help you achieve your goals via private or group services, and by providing free information.


Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley Memphis TN

Canine Behavior Modification for Reactive, Unwanted, Behaviors, including Fear and Aggression


LilyOkay, so your dog is fearful, barking, lunging and otherwise distressed when he or she sees people, trucks, cars, or dogs. Depending on who you are talking to, those behaviors may be classified as territory or protective aggression, possession aggression, inter-dog aggression, fear aggression, or leash aggression.

I’ll refer to the other people, other dogs, trucks, cars, as “triggers”, because they trigger the fear or aggression in your dog.

There are volumes of articles and books on how to modify fearful and aggressive behaviors in dogs. Some of the information may be helpful and other information is outdated and less helpful.

A canine modification plan is fluid. It changes as you progress. Because of all the variables, and the constant adjustments when treating fear and aggression in dogs, it’s not feasible for me to post all the methods and solutions I would use in a private consultation.

But I can give you this overview and some instructions that might work with your dog.

This article is about visual triggers. If your dog reacts to noises, the same concepts apply.

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First you need to change your dog’s perception of the triggers. Then you will use rewards to pay your dog for desirable, non reactive behaviors, when the trigger is in sight.

Before you actually do exercises with your dog in the field, please review this checklist.

Meet your dog’s physical, social and emotional needs.

Kindly prevent your dog from practicing unwanted reactive behaviors.

Establish a method to communicate precisely. Condition a reward marker.

Enact the Rewards Awareness Program.

Establish a Reward System.

Teach your dog “attention on cue” or “look”.

Practice “look” in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not be people or dogs or whatever triggers the unwanted, reactive, behaviors).

Teach your dog to sit on command.

Practice “sit” in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not be people or dogs or whatever triggers the unwanted, reactive, behaviors).

Teach your dog to bump your two-finger target to the cue, “here”.

Practice “here” in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not be people or dogs or whatever triggers the unwanted, reactive behaviors).

Teach your dog to walk nicely on a loose lead or to heel.

Practice walking nicely in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not include the triggers).

Optional: Obtain a Gentle Leader head collar or a Canny Collar. Introduce your dog to the head collar and practice with the head collar, so that your dog is not distracted by wearing the head collar. Head collars make it possible to safely move or control your dog’s pulling behaviors.

Optional: If your dog is “crazy excited” for squeaky toys or balls, get a couple of new ones and save them for these exercises. You can use the toys as rewards, or as distractions to get your dog’s attention when the triggers are too close.

Now you can begin the real work!

Identify the Threshold

Find the distance where your dog can see the trigger but not react with “out of control” barking, lunging, et cetera. I’ll refer to this distance as the threshold for reactivity. It may be 400 yards or 20 feet. It will change depending on the environment, your dog’s current emotional or physical state, or any number of factors.

The threshold is fluid, not static. You’ll need to find the threshold every time you start a practice session. Whatever it is right now, this distance or threshold will become shorter and shorter as you practice. You’ll always start each session outside the threshold.

Set up the Practice Session

For this step you’ll need the help of others. Their jobs will be to present the trigger outside the threshold, move a few steps closer and then move back outside the threshold.

If you don’t have any helpers, you can still set up the session. Go to a place where you are likely to see the triggers, such as a walking path at the park or a parking lot of a pet supply store. Get several feet off the path or away from the traffic, outside the threshold.

It helps if your dog is hungry. Do this before feeding time or withhold dinner and feed during these sessions.

Change your Dog’s Perception

Before you start with the triggers, ask your dog to perform a few simple commands such as “here’ or “sit”. This will engage your dog to pay attention to you!

Stand outside the threshold of a trigger. The instant you see the dog or person or car approaching, announce the trigger. Tell your dog something like “that’s a friend or that’s a truck” and immediately feed your dog several treats. Keep feeding until the trigger has retreated and is no longer nearby.

(If your starts barking or lunging, you are too close the the trigger, move away. If your dog starts to stare or looks like he or she might be ready to bark and lunge, command “here” and present your two finger target, or ask your dog to “look”. Either one of these commands gets the dog to look away from the trigger and focus on you.)

This sequence is called a cycle. You will hold many cycles during a session.

Between each cycle, give your dog a tension rest to absorb the recent events. The tension rest should be as as long as it took to perform the cycle. So, if the trigger is in sight for 10 seconds before it moves outside the threshold, the duration of the tension rest immediately after the cycle will be at least 10 seconds.

Repeat this process for at least 30 minutes per session. Perform another cycle followed by a tension rest. The idea is to change your dog’s immediate, involuntary responses to the trigger.

Instead of “oh no, there’s another dog, which is immediately followed by involuntary barking, fleeing, freezing or lunging (fight, flight, freeze behaviors), you want your dog’s initial involuntary response to the sight of the triggers to be anticipation of food. You are using classical conditioning to associate the trigger with the delivery of food. Your dog cannot be aggressive or fearful and salivate in anticipation of food at the same instant!

As you progress through the session, you will notice your dog will begin to ignore the trigger and focus on you and the food as soon as you announce the trigger. Perfect. Now you can move a bit closer to the trigger and continue. The threshold is getting shorter!

Repeat these sessions until your dog automatically looks towards you whenever a trigger is in sight. Continue to announce the triggers on routine walks, and anytime you are interacting with your dog, be it during a practice session, or not.

Real LIfe Ambush

If you get “ambushed” by a trigger during an outing, and you are not ready with several treats, kindly ask your dog to sit facing you, or to bump your two finger target. If she is too excited, move her away from the trigger and ask again. Repeat this sequence until your dog is far enough away that she will listen to your commands.

This basic method will work with most dogs, and most reactive behaviors, however it is not as efficient as perception modification via Syn Alia Training System.


Keep in mind, there are many factors about your relationship and your daily interactions with your dog that influence behaviors. In addition, your dog may be influenced by other dogs in the household, medical conditions, diet, nutrition, genetic and or neurological factors. If your dog constantly barks at triggers from inside the house, or fence fights with the dogs next door, the prognosis is poor.

You’ll need to prevent your dog from practicing fear and aggression if you want to succeed!

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner

How’s Bentley

Canine Behavior Modification for Fear, Aggression in Dogs – Memphis TN

New iPhone app -Dog and Puppy Shake – Fun Facts and Trainer Truths
21st Century Dogs – Dog and Puppy Club

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The critical period of socialization for puppies begins when the ear canals open at about 21 days of age. The period ends anytime from 12 to 16 weeks of age.

West Highland TerrierYou have a very brief window of opportunity to socialize your puppy.

During the last century, experiments and studies concerning genetics and the social development of dogs were prevalent.

It is well documented that dogs that were deprived of social interactions with people and events during the sensitive or critical period of socialization were adversely affected.

The critical period of socialization begins when the ear canals open at about 21 days of age. The period ends anytime from 12 to 16 weeks of age.

Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog by John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller is a well-regarded book which documents experiments about the critical period of socialization.

Pups that are exposed to various events, multiple settings, other pups, other species, friendly dogs and a diverse mix of adults and children during early developmental periods are less likely to develop fearful or aggressive behaviors.

In addition, the normal physiological development of organs associated with the immune system can be enhanced or retarded because of increased or decreased early social interactions.

According to many studies, well-socialized puppies grow into dogs that navigate stressful situations well. Poorly socialized pups are more likely to become dogs that freeze, flee, or fight when presented with stressful changes in their environment.

Inside the circles of medical and behavioral health professionals, an ongoing controversy exists.

Medical health professionals are concerned about exposing non-vaccinated pups to life threatening diseases.

Veterinary personnel routinely instruct puppy owners to restrict their pup’s excursions into non-sterile outside environments until the pups are fully immunized at 16 weeks. Their advice is warranted. Dangerous health risks are present in public areas.

The deadly parvo virus can survive for months in the environment. Roundworms and other intestinal parasites can live for years in the soil.

Many dangers are passed via animals’ stools. If you are in a public area, don’t allow your puppy to sniff stools or other dogs’ rear ends!

Behavioral health experts contend that more dogs are relinquished or euthanized due to behavior problems than all medical conditions combined.

From a behavioral health point of view, pups should be exposed to diverse situations during the period from 8-16 weeks. With early exposures, fewer dogs would develop fearful and aggressive behaviors.  This controversy has a simple solution.

Expose your 8-16 week-old pup to stimulating situations that don’t threaten his or her developing immune system.

Take your young puppy on car rides, visits to friends and neighbors homes. Hold controlled play sessions with healthy, vaccinated pups and friendly dogs. Invite many people to your house so that your pup can meet all types of people.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner, CBC  – How’s Bentley – Memphis TN

Certified Companion Animal Behavior Counselor – Canine Specialization


Pet Dogs for Protection Dogs?

OdenGSDOn How’s Bentley Private Services Enrollment Form, the box labeled “For Protection” is often selected as one of the reasons my clients acquire their pet dogs. I understand why people select a pet dog for a protection role.

I have worked with more German Shepherd Dogs in the past year than the previous 3 years. I believe the current political and social cultures are responsible for people choosing dogs like German Shepherd Dogs, Doberman Pinchers, and other guarding dogs with “vicious” labeling. We are more fearful as a country than we were 15 years ago. That is reflected by the breeds of dogs that we choose. OOPs, this is off topic. I’ll talk about dog breed selection trends in the suburbs of Tennessee at another time.

Many people expect their dogs to be natural protectors and body guards. Too bad it’s not that simple.

It’s not that dogs won’t protect. Some dogs will naturally growl, snarl, bark, snap and bite when anyone approaches.

That’s the problem. Some dogs protect us from everyone. Dogs growl, snarl, snap and bite family members, house mates, friends, children, neighbors, cable guys, even pizza delivery couriers. That’s just rude. I need my pizza. Please Killer, spare the Domino Pizza guy.

Our pet dogs are not any better at determining who is a threat than the average Joe. We have these opposable thumbs and large brains, yet very few of us can determine which people in a busy suburban mall parking lot are about to attack us. Our untrained dogs have a solution. Bite them all and let the alpha dog sort them out!?

YIKES! The point is, you must take time to obedience train your dog before you can have a dependable protection dog. The last thing you want is a dog that decides every stranger is a threat and acts without your input!

True personal protection dogs are very well trained in all aspects of basic and advanced obedience and many participate in Schutzhund, a dog sport that originated in Germany. True protection dogs will stop attacking when their handlers command them to disengage.

Before you select a breed of dog genetically bred for natural, protective tendencies, talk with a trainer who can help you teach the dog basic obedience. For if you have a pet dog that is aggressive towards everyone, and will not stop when you call, you do not have a protection dog. You have a liability.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner
Companion Animal Behavior Counselor and Trainer
Private Sessions to Help Aggressive and Fearful Dogs
How’s Bentley- Memphis, Collierville, Germantown, TN

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USA Customers PURCHASE CANNY COLLARS CLICK HERE – $32.90 USD includes shipping.

Bentley Barks – Forget About Alpha!

Alpha_aForget About Alpha and Forget About Dog – Human Packs!

For years, some dog trainers have suggested that you establish yourself as the alpha, as pack leader, and your dog will listen to you, respect you, and all will be well! These trainers believe that dog behavior is all about alpha, but what does that mean? How does a human occupy any position in another species’ hierarchy, much less first place? Do dogs really form packs with humans?

I say forget about human-dog packs and alpha! Humans and dogs don’t form interspecies packs. Domesticated dogs evolved because of man and don’t need to form packs in order to promote reproduction. Dogs and humans are different species. Dogs know this! Recognizing one’s own species is the single most important skill necessary for reproduction.

If you like to view your human-dog group as a pack, that’s ok by me, but I will point out that true pack dynamics are unnecessary and absent from the human-dog family. We don’t compete with dogs for food, territory or reproduction rights, so we really don’t compete with dogs for an imaginary alpha position in an imaginary dog-human pack!

Rank reduction programs, suggestions to mimic dog-dog behaviors, and leadership programs like “Nothing in Life is Free” (NILIF) or “No Free Lunch” are often explained with terms such as alpha, dominance, submission, deference and leadership. Among other suggestions, variations of programs instruct people to eat first, go through doorways first, ask the dog to sit before feeding, before throwing the ball, before petting, et cetera.

Some go as far as to instruct people to physically roll the dogs on their backs or sides, a procedure commonly referred to as the alpha roll. I believe the latter is poor advice for the general public, dangerous for aggressive cases and has multiple flaws, but nonetheless is a solution that some trainers sincerely recommend.

In many cases, some of these programs are very effective but the good results have nothing to do with establishing yourself as alpha, being dominant, mimicking dog behavior or acting as a dog leader.

Success has everything to do with the intelligent management of rewards and punishers, which are the immediate consequences of behaviors. If you want to learn how to teach or control behaviors you must identify and manage the immediate consequences of behaviors. All voluntary behaviors can be summed up in one scientific truth that has been known for over 100 years. Edward Lee Thorndike, a pioneer in the field of behaviorism in the late 1890s, studied cats and puzzle boxes at Columbia University and stated this Law of Effect.

In so many words, Thorndike’s Law of Effect states: Behaviors that have immediate appealing consequences will increase in frequency and behaviors that have immediate unappealing consequences will diminish in frequency.

Thorndike did not, nor has any other behavioral scientist in the past 100+ years, foot-note his Law of Effect with the words “except for dogs – and then you must become the alpha.” So I say, forget about alpha, forget about dominance and pack behavior. Focus on the basic, underlying, scientific principles of behavior and you will succeed!

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – Pet Dude Memphis TN

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Interrupters: Squirt Bottles, Newspaper Swats, Shake Cans – Are They Effective for Changing Dogs’ Rude Behaviors?

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Interrupters are corrections people use to momentarily stop their dogs’ behaviors. Examples of potential interrupters are shouting “no”, squirting with a water bottle, shaking a can with pennies, tossing keys on the floor, swatting with a newspaper, or holding a pup’s muzzle closed.

Interrupters can stop a behavior for the moment. Great, sometimes we need to stop a dog or puppy from misbehaving! Unfortunately, interrupters do not necessarily decrease the likelihood of the behavior reoccurring in the future.

Interrupters decrease behaviors for the moment and can be very useful short-term tools when we are unprepared. Interrupters do not efficiently modify behavior over the long term.

Many of my clients with serious problems unknowingly intensify the problems via the improper use of interrupters.

If you answer “YES” to any of the following questions it is very likely that you are using interrupters inefficiently and/or your methods of communicating and teaching are flawed.

  • Have you used the interrupter on many occasions to stop the same behavior(s)?
  • Is the behavior occurring as often today as it was yesterday?
  • Will the dog cower at the sight of the interrupter, even though he or she is not misbehaving?
  • Does the interrupter need to be visible, or held in your hand, before the dog will comply with your wishes?
  • Are you constantly carrying the interrupter with you, or purposely placing the interrupter within easy reach?

Using constant interrupters as teaching tools has unwanted side effects, the least of which is a confused, distrustful dog. In addition, interrupters do not teach the dog which behaviors you do want.

Interrupt – Redirect – Pay

You can use interrupters effectively if you complete the thought and tell your dog what is acceptable. Interrupt –> redirect –> pay is the most efficient use of interrupters.

Anytime you say “no”, ask yourself these two questions. What exactly would I like my dog to do at this moment and exactly where would I like him to do it?  Once you have these answers, you’ve just identified your redirect behaviors and your next training goal. Teach your dog to perform the redirect behaviors in that specific context. Do this when you have complete control of the environment.

For instance, suppose your dog jumps up on the dishwasher door and licks dishes when you are loading your dishwasher. Ok, you’ve defined the problem, now decide on a solution.

What exactly would you like your dog to do when you load the dishwasher? Where would you like him to do it?

You’ve decided that you’d like your dog to lie on the kitchen area-rug when you load the dishwasher. Here’s a summary of your training plan. Variations of this exercise can be used to address other problems such as bolting out open doors and stealing food from counters.

Remember, you can’t teach your dog when life is calling the shots! Set aside some time and teach your dog this specific skill.

First, teach your dog “Go to Place (place is the rug)”.

Gradually increase the time he must stay on the rug before you pay him.

Add the distractions of the dish loading process – one step at a time. Have him stay while you bend down and touch the handle, while you operate the door handle, while you open and close the door, while you place a dish inside, et cetera.

After a few short sessions, your dog will know exactly what to do, when you load dishes, and he will know exactly where to do it!

The next time your dog jumps up on the dishwasher door, tell him “no”, immediately cue him to Go to Rug, then release and pay him – after you are through with your task.

Better yet; before you begin to clean up, tell your dog to “Go to rug”. Don’t forget to pay him after you are finished cleaning up!

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization

Private and Group Dog Behavior and Training Services

Memphis, TN

How’s Bentley