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Doing it wrong? Or doing it right

Yesterday's post highlighted some of the things I might do if a dog I'm working with does the "wrong" thing -- if they jump up on you, if they don't respond to an obedience command, etc.

But the focus on how to react when the dog messes up is not the best focus to have! What I want instead is for the majority of your training to  be answering the questions, "How can I help the dog to do it RIGHT?"

Let's take mouthing during play. You know, when the puppy gets revved up and crunches down on your hand, arm or clothing. Yesterday I suggested immediately halting play, waiting until the puppy lets go, and then continuing play. Lesson learned: "Biting causes the game to stop." So the puppy will avoid biting, because it wants to continue playing!

This is definitely valid, but let's look at it from a different angle. What could you do so that the puppy "gets it right" (i.e. doesn't bite at all)?

How about incorporating some toys into your play? The puppy is definitely allowed to bite and roughhouse with the toy. Literally all of my clients who have young puppies can recognize this specific "gleam" in their puppies adorable eyes when they're going to get mouthy! They learn to instruct, "Go get your toy!" and the puppy learns to quickly grab a toy, put it in its mouth, and then play continues and there's no biting at all! 

How about the forging ahead at fast-paced heel? (I'm taking examples from yesterday's video and post.) Yesterday, I addressed this issue by either re-cueing heel, or by simply not rewarding the errant behavior. What could I have done instead to ensure that the puppy would have gotten it right in the first place?

One thing I could have done was make it initially easier for her. What if instead of "heel at fast pace across the yard," I chose "heel at fast pace for three steps." As you can see from the video, she was able to maintain heel for three steps! Three steps could have gotten a reward, then I could have set as a goal "heel at fast pace for four steps." Then five steps, then six, and boom! Next time we'd be heeling at fast pace across the yard."

That's called "error-free learning" and it's what you should strive for. Obviously, we're human, and the environment sometimes is unhelpful, but I really want you to shift your thinking from reactive ("What do I do when the dog does [insert bad behavior]?") to proactive ("How can I get him to something other than [insert bad behavior.]" There really is a huge difference in these two mindsets!

Try it! I'd love if you commented on this post and filled in the following two sentences for me:

I want my dog to stop _____________.
I want my dog to start _____________.

I'll even give a sample! My answer is

I want my dog to stop __forging ahead at fast-pace heel__.
I want my dog to start __ maintaining fast pace heel___.

See how easy?

Now you try! I'm serious! Go ahead and comment!

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