ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

The Proof is in the Seeing

Carol Whitney and I were just talking about how my perspective has gradually changed over the past 1 1/2 years.... I am not a "sudden convert" type of person :-)

And I remember when I first got on a clicker training list.... I just couldn't understand this whole thing.... "How could you possibly train with R+ only?? What if the dog does something wrong? Shouldn't I correct him?" (BTW: P- (negative punishment) is an acceptable choice... more on that another time.)

I remember saying that if my dog acted aggressively toward someone (especially a child) then I would *definitely* correct him, and most likely be pretty harsh about it too....

That is the way I was taught to train a dog.... years ago. Max (our former GSD/Husky) was short-haired on the right side of his neck because of all the corrections he got with a choke chain.... sigh. Thankfully he had the solid temperment to turn into *wonderful* pet in spite of my mistakes!

Well, over time, I have come to realize that if my dog behaves inappropriately then:

  1. He is in a situation that he is not ready to deal with...
  2. I have not trained him how to deal with that situation.
  3. I need to change the situation so he can deal with it properly.
  4. I need to plan a way to train him so that he can understand what I want him to do in that situation.

IOW, if the dog misbehaves, it is *MY* fault, not his. OK, I would have had a hard time swallowing that one a couple of years ago.... :-) I guess what has changed IMO is *whose fault is it?*

If the dog chews up the couch when I'm not home, is it the dog's fault or mine? In the past, I would have been angry with the dog.... now I think "I should have known better than to leave him out for so long when he was not ready for it" I made a mistake in judgement.... and gave him a situation he was not ready for yet. I will have to back up and try something easier for him.

Does that make any sense?

BTW: I also learned along the way that if you correct a dog for growling etc... he may learn *not to growl* in warning... but just to bite. He may learn: "Mom does not like if I growl... I'm really scared.... I want to growl.... No, Mom will get upset... that thing (child?) is coming closer!!! HELP ME!! I can't growl, Mom will be angry! What should I do????" and finally the dog may snap at the child.

This is just an example of how punishing one behavior (suppressing it) can lead to unexpected and sometimes even worse results. So instead, if the dog does something that you do not want.... *guide* the dog to what you *DO* want.

Personally, I would go ahead and say "uh uh... that's enough" Email makes this difficult.... IOW, I would give my dog the "please stop doing that... that is not what I want" signal.... but it is given in a neutral sort of voice... not a punishing voice and *no* leash jerking etc. And I might say "Come on, let's go this way..." also very neutral.... Once the dog stopped growling (his choice) then I might sound cheerful and tell the dog he is being very good. Then very slowly (over time, no hurry) I would gradually bring the dog closer and closer to the thing that made him growl... but always slowly enough that the dog *does not* have to react. Always reinforcing calm, proper behavior.... If the dog reacts inappropriately... then the person went to quickly.

I have really found that *MY* behavior is so critical! If I act like something is serious, then my dog gets upset. If I act a little silly or "no big deal" then my dog relaxes and decides it must be ok. If I act worried or upset, my dog gets VERY tense and fear/aggressive.

Last night I dropped a small plastic bowl. I bounced across the kitchen floor and seemed as though it was attacking Kodi. He tensed up and looked worried. I said (like a fool) "Oh Kodi! Did I drop that bowl at you? Oh my goodness! It's trying to chase you!" He was convinced (once again) that I am very strange ;-) but that plastic bowls bouncing across the floor are no big deal.

Cocoa (a former lab mix) was a very shy/scared dog. And I made her 100 times worse by babying her. "Oh, poor Cocoa" (hug, pet). The dog was scared of everything because I felt so sad and worried when she got scared.... Well, now I am rambling :-)

I've got to get back to work.... Hope this helps :-)

Debbie Otero, Kodi and Amber

copyright 1999 Debbie Otero


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