BARKS from the Guild January 2020

Page 26

training

A “Spoiled” Dog or a Frustrated Dog? Suzanne Clothier explains the power of volitional behavior and why it is the trainer’s job to set up situations so dogs can find the answers

© Can Stock Photo/DragoNika

© Can Stock Photo/ferrerivideo

A dog's behavior is always the best gauge of how things are going for the dog, regardless of the trainer’s expectations, experience or techniques

As trainers, it is our responsibility to set up a training situation where the dog can find the answer for himself, and then rapidly build on that success

A

able. What would you know? You'd know what the dog shows you in his be­ havior. Start there. Do not bring the judgment of "he is spoiled" into an as­ sessment of how the dog is behaving, or how you will respond to him. #3. If sessions are organized so that the humans are sitting and talking for a long time, do not ask the dog to be a part of that. Put him away or give him something really engaging to do. Do not give him an opportunity to practice unwanted behavior, and do not give him an opportunity to learn that you are willing to ignore and frustrate him. #4. When you are ready to focus on just the dog, then training begins. The dog deserves your full attention, and the client needs to see a profes­ sional trainer modeling appropriate interactions, which include managing when not training, and being focused when training. #5. “Ignore unwanted behavior and it will go away” is inaccurate, and often ineffective. If you ignore a behavior that requires external reinforce­ ment, then yes, that will probably diminish or extinguish. But if you ignore a behavior that is self­reinforcing, the dog won’t care one whit whether you ignore him or not. #6. Withdrawing attention until the dog "gets it right" can work some­ times. But it assumes that the dog can figure it out. Ignoring the dog until X happens hinges completely on the dog's ability (and willingness) to con­ tinue to offer new behaviors until he magically hits upon the "right" answer. Guess what dogs with low frustration thresholds don't do? Keep offering behaviors if they are unsuccessful. They just get frustrated.

young trainer questioned why her clients’ adolescent dogs often nipped or humped her, behaviors the owners reported did not hap­ pen with other people. The trainer characterized the dogs as “spoiled, used to getting everything they want whenever they want it.” She noted that she ignores the dogs when she enters unless there are four paws on the ground, and if they jump, she turns her back. She also noted that during the first session, she and the owners sit talking for a long time, dur­ ing which she deliberately ignores the dogs. When the dogs try to nip or hump her, she body blocks them and pushes them out of her space, and yelps if they nip her. If the behavior persists, she tries to distract with the dogs’ toys. She also waits for the dogs to give her eye contact before she provides treats. She is puzzled why the behavior keeps happening even after teaching the dogs basic manners using treats and toys. She is con­ cerned that perhaps she is doing something to trigger these unwelcome be­ haviors. Hats off to the young trainer for raising such a great issue! Unpacking this provides a lot of useful information. #1. A dog's behavior is always the best gauge of how things are going for the dog, regardless of the trainer’s expectations, experience or tech­ niques. If the dog is telling you he's frustrated, believe him. One of my Ele­ mental Questions™ is, “How is this for you?” Believe the dog’s answer. #2. Respond to behavior, not the dog’s history. Imagine that you just found this dog in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot with no information avail­

Respond to behavior, not the dog’s history. Imagine that you just found this dog in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot with no information available. What would you know? You'd know what the dog shows you in his behavior. Start there. Do not bring the judgment of "he is spoiled" into an assessment of how the dog is behaving, or how you will respond to him.

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BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


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