Remember the song Chain of Fools? If you’re too young, here’s a link to Aretha Franklin singing it. (Spoiler Alert #1: Best song ever. Spoiler Alert #2: Ear worm danger.)
The word “chain” and “fool” can be linked in another way, in this case, when you’re training your dog. I’m of course, talking about “behavior chains” in which your dog learns pretty much the opposite of what you wanted. The examples are endless; here’s one: Your dog begins barking at something out the window, you call him to come to you, and reinforce him for coming (and thus not barking). He goes back to the window and continues barking, so you call him back to you, and reinforce him stopping barking and coming to you. All good right? You stopped your dog from barking, and reinforced the behavior. Except pretty soon you have a dog who is barking at a leaf falling in a remote rain forest, or more likely, nothing at all, because he’s learned that doing so has taught you to call him to come so that he can get a treat. It’s the old “who’s training who” problem.
This just happened to me when Maggie refused to enter the woods in an area where we often walk. There had been a tussle in the woods the day before–two other dogs engaged in lots of sound and fury with no injuries–and it clearly terrified Maggie (the dog who leaves the room if I drop a glass and say, “Oh S*&%” even slightly above normal speaking volume). The next day, she truly was afraid to go into the woods, frightened of what monsters lurked in The Woods Where the Evil Witch’s Monkeys Are Waiting to Snatch Us up.
But this is one of our favorite places to walk, and Maggie needed to learn that the woods were not a dangerous place. So when she paused at the entrance to the woods, I called her to come to me and reinforced her with a treat. We went 30 yards, and she stopped again. I called her to come, she came, and I reinforced her again.
You know where this is going, right? Repeat this a few more times before my brain engaged, and sure enough, Maggie had learned: “If I stop on the trail, Trisha will call me to come and I’ll get a treat. Got it.”
Whoops. Luckily, it didn’t take me too long to figure it out. I cancelled out that chain immediately, but then . . . what next? I could have put her on a leash and hauled her along with me, but I wanted her to make the choice. First I tried walking away with the other dogs (dogs she knows well, and, importantly, minus one of the dogs who was involved in the frakus). Maggie stayed put until I was over 75 yards away, and now out of sight. I could have waited to see if she eventually caught up but 1) she might have trotted back to the car (not safe) instead of coming forward further into the woods, and 2) the mosquitos were unbearable and it was super hot with eight thousand million degrees of humidity. So no, not doing that.
So, I made sure she could see me, called the other dogs and gave them treats to get her attention. Then I gave her the signal I use when she is far away from me and working sheep that means “Whoa, Maggie, what you are doing is wrong”. You can call it a correction or a cue that adds information like many people use which means “uh uh, try again”. I said “Nope!” in a low voice, although not a particularly loud one.
Then I walked back to her and showed her the treats in my hand but didn’t give her any. I walked two strides forward, and this time she walked with me, so I reinforced her. Okay, now we’re cooking. After that she got reinforced for walking beside me. She did stop a few times, but I stopped right away too, prompted her to move forward with a dip of my torso, and reinforced her again only when she was walking beside me.
The next time we walked in the woods she was still clearly hesitant, so I gave her lots of reinforcement for walking beside me. This time she didn’t need any prompts. But I don’t want her walk in the woods to be “on heel” with me, so the third time we went back, after we were partway in the woods, and she was walking beside me with little reinforcement, I said “Go on a Walk!” which is a cue to run ahead and explore. She did, and we finished the walk with her behaving almost normally. But not quite; my guess is it’ll take her several more walks before she’s completely over it, because she was truly frightened by what happened.
Thus, I broke out of the chain, but it would have been a lot easier to avoid it in the first place. I’d beat myself up over getting sucked into it, but then, that wouldn’t do me or Maggie much good. Besides, I bruise easily.
Who among us hasn’t been caught up at least once in these behavior chains? I think it would be helpful to all of us if you’d join in the conversation and tell us your story . . . when/if you got caught in the chain, how you got out of it and how you avoid it. To add to the conversation, not long ago one of our readers mentioned a great article about this in Dr. Jen’s Dog Blog. I loved it, and loved the reminder of how easy it is to get caught up by what I am now calling, with due respect and benevolence to all of us, The Dog Training Chain of Fools. Cue Aretha.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: The heat and humidity finally broke on Sunday. FINALLY (yeah, I am yelling). But it has led to some gorgeous sunsets–here’s one that Jim took a few nights ago.
Maggie and I have been working sheep early in the morning before it gets too horrible, but last night she was cool enough for a cuddle on the couch and wool pillow.
I’m so glad that we are no longer held hostage inside the house by the weather, because the garden flowers are at their peak, led off by an explosion of lilies:
The flock up in the pasture must be happy too for the break in the weather:
So many things are making me happy today–the flowers, the sheep, and especially, better weather. What’s making you happy this week?
Stephanie Jenkins says
Great post! I have a 2+year old rescue dog who loves to help in the kitchen. I have gotten him to understand that if he’s hanging underfoot and I shake my head and say “no” with a certain inflection he goes to “his chair” in our connected family room to watch from there. When I first began that training I treated him when he got to the chair until he popped right back into the kitchen for a do-over. I’m NOT a dog trainer, just an owner who has your books in the back of her brain, but I figured out to treat him only after he stayed in the chair for successively longer periods. Good thing they continue to help us to remember how they learn!
Jay Wootten says
My foolish chain training: I was having the basement waterproofed, which resulted in many young men running up and down the stairs all day for two days. Beau the reactive border collie learned in about 3 reps that if he ran to the gate, barked once, and ran back to me, he’d get a treat. I didn’t bother trying to break the chain because I knew it would be over by day two. Amazing how quickly they train us.
Years ago, my little Keeshond Bertie trained my husband to get up out of his chair, walk to the kitchen, open the cabinet, and give him a treat. Didn’t take Bert long at all to give one command and watch Dad reward him.
I’ve had my dog since he was a pleasure puppy, he is nearly two years old and I just figured this out! I used to make him sit or look at me when he pulled, then go forward. Since the behavior chain started with pulling, it didn’t work. It was making it worse this whole time and I figured it out! 🤔
Anyhow, do you think some dogs are better than others at thinking a couple of steps ahead in a behavior chain?
So true. I live in an apartment building and, alas, the laundry room is on my floor. People go past my door off and on and I can’t hear them before my super attentive girl hears them and heads to the door to warn them off our door. It’s obvious that rewarding her for stopping and coming back to the main room is not effective. Problem is that I can’t really get ahead of something I can’t hear!
I have tried a gate that does not let her get down the hallway to the door, but she just stops near it and protests louder…..
Her hearing is just so much better than my antique ears will ever be…
Kathy Northover says
I always boundary train my dogs so that in case they get out accidentally they don’t leave the property. My heart dog, Kelly is the first one I trained. One day she went running and barking at someone in the street but stopped abruptly at the property line. I praised her for stopping. It only took that one time for her to figure it was okay to run and bark and scare folks half to death as long as she stopped at the curb. Bad Mommy. I worked a long time to break that chain and never fully stopped it. I figured it was self rewarding enough for her to keep at it but I never gave up either.
We have had our highly reactive lab-chihuahua mix for 3 months now and I’m trying to follow Karen Overall’s relaxation protocol. I am stuck on day 11; every time, about halfway through the tasks, he hopped off his cot and ran to his bed. Each time, I pointed to the cot and got him back on it, then had him lie down and he got a treat. Guess what he learned? Hop off the cot, go back on and get treat. Fortunately I recognized the chain quickly and my trainer suggested that if he gets off, I have him do something (sit, down) and then he goes back on the cot without a treat. I understand all too well that dog training is 90% about training the human (but it sure is fun).
This post is very educational for those who have not yet fallen into to the trap. Training a dog does take some finesse. Do the wrong thing at the wrong time and all your good intentions go out of the window so to speak.
Re-enforcing a behaviour in a dog takes some understanding of the way a dog reacts to the enforcement given at the time.
Really enjoyed reading this.
Alexandra Tytheridge-Allan says
Great post and fantastic photos! I do think some dogs are better at identifying potential chains – terriers in particular! My terrier x identified the “drop it” chain early on- to the point where she actively looked for things to pick up on a walk. She’d then turn to me and slowly chew with eyes saying “Do you feel lucky punk? Well do ya?” So we now practice “Leave it”. I guess she taught me to just treat her and not slow the process by bothering with random treasures🙂
My dog was a chronic leash puller. I was taught to stand still until she came back to my side and then reward by moving forward again. She quickly learned to pull, run back and circle me to return to my left (which meant a quick hand change for the leash) and within two steps was pulling again. Our entire walk was frustrating for both of us but the constant stopping and circling must have looked hysterical to anyone watching!
Oh! I think I’m stuck in a chain! I’ve let my socially deprived new(ish) pup do lots of exploring on leash. She gets treats for checking in with me. But she will pull and wander on the leash then come back to my side, get a treat then immediately go back out to the end of the leash again. Duh! (Forehead slapping happening here). I believe I need to start making her wait longer and longer periods of time before she gets the treat so that she learns that walking closer to me (and not pulling) is the behavior being rewarded. Thank you for the lightbulb-inducing post 🙂
Billie Blakeney says
My Teddy (Shetland sheepdog) and I sit on the front porch in the evenings and take in the activity that happens on the street and our neighbor’s yard. We have a long frontage with considerable distance. Teddy goes into ‘guard/protect mode when he sees anything or anybody so much as wink in the distance. He is on a long line, and he just goes ballistic when he sees that kind of activity. I’ve tried reeling him in and getting him into a sit (no treats), and praise him, but he still returns to his “trash” barking at the activity beyond our front yard. He seems to be getting more “aggressive” with his frustration and shows it through his barking. Any pointers would be helpful. No treats are involved.
Ana Schnellmann says
It’s comforting to have so much company! My young Golden (now a year) was an inveterate thief when she was younger, and when I failed to pick up all laundry/towels/shoes/remotes/anything-that-fit-in-her-mouth, she’d pick it up and dance around with it. I “taught” her “drop” and rewarded the drop with a treat–before too long, she’d prance in front of me with contraband, prance right to the treat jar, and pointedly DROP the item and look at me expectantly. What a neat game she had taught me!
Mary Beth says
I would like to hear more ideas on how to stop the barking Dog Training Chain of Fools. 🙂 Many advise distraction with ‘cookies’ to stop the barking but we have an Aussie who figures out pretty fast these behaviors that will lead to treats…good and bad. I have also heard to just ignore until they stop…which we have also tried but the barking goes on a LONG time. Do we remove him from the room, say in a back kennel where he normally sleeps for a short time possibly? The barking to alert has us stumped as to what to do. We too have a young pup, 11 months, who barks to let us know he has heard the next door dogs or any sound concerning him outside or barks at the back window if he sees the neighbors in their backyard. Just to let us know, ‘hey mom and dad someone is out there!’ Any advice would be much appreciated.
This post brought my dear, departed Simeon to mind. (Newfoundland, golden retriever). He had me trained to follow him to the treat cabinet for a mint bone (breath buster) after breakfast and dinner. I didn’t try to break the behavior bc it was so endearing to me. My other two never clued in to training me in this way. The treats last longer, but I do miss my routine with Sim.
I am happy with the cooler temps, but so are the mosquitos. 😠
I am happy to have had Lake time on those especially hot days and I’m always happy to have my dogs by my side.
Working on this now with my almost 2 year old puppy. When he was little and grabbed something he shouldn’t have (like a shoe which someone forgot to put away), we worked on “drop it & leave it” and then treat when I took away. Now, when he wants a treat or when he just wants attention…..he goes and finds something he’s not supposed to have and runs to whatever room I’m in a lays down with it, looks at me, and has a big grin on his face.
Adrienne K says
These are all great posts proving our dogs can quickly figure out how to outsmart us. For some reason our poodle Zasu, who happens to be very smart, was afraid to walk into any of our bathrooms. She would lurk outside the door and just stand there. I didn’t want her to be afraid of any room in the house so I started throwing a treat on the floor while I was in there brushing my teeth and she would walk in and pick it up and run out. Now she comes in all the time and stands there waiting for treat after treat. Fortunately she understands what I mean when I put up “jazz hands” after she gets one treat. When I do that she will get the message and stop entering and looking for more treats and leave.
Charlotte Kasner says
Laundry room problem:
How about enlisting help from friends who pretend to be using the laundry room. Establish the chain of behaviour that you want to be triggered by sounds coming from the laundry room (even if you can’t hear them, you will know that your friends are setting your dog up) so that you can practise.
Laundry room sounds =settle quietly on a mat for instance
This is such a good topic. I had read Dr Jen’s blog on the subject and Chris from Boise’s great description of Obi’s chain. In thinking about this, I realized the two dogs we’ve had that have come from the least known and perhaps most under-socialized, less-than-ideal circumstances were also the dogs who had the strongest and quickest chain responses. Connection? Perhaps. The lesson of survival? Obviously, we were willing partners in this, but both Grace and Olive figured out really fast that they could make a start toward X when we wanted Y and that triggered us to redirect and respond with a treat. They both applied this in many different contexts. It’s taken us two-leggeds a lot longer to realize our mistake and correct our actions. We’re still working on this with Olive on a daily basis.
One thing (of the many) I wonder about: If Olive is starting to bark at the dog next door, and she offers a few barks and then takes her place next to the treat dish area and waits for me to throw her a few treats as she changes her mind about barking, isn’t that what we both want? How do I in that instance determine if her motive to bark was real or a ruse, and does it matter?
Another great chain song sung by another amazing female vocalist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK3uf5V0pDA
Louise Peacock says
Over the decades, my dogs have trained me to do all kinds of things. This week, Drew showed me that we have a chain of sorts for early morning. My brain wakes up slowly, so I’m on autopilot at first. Morning goes like this: Drew drops a tennis ball on me; we play with the ball on the bed; I use the bathroom; Drew goes out (we live in the city, alas, so I accompany him always); Drew comes in; Drew gets breakfast; I get coffee.
A few days ago, Drew woke me up early, and indicated that he had to go out immediately. Ok, we did that. When we came in, I went to the bathroom and started coffee while Drew fussed at his food dish. Suddenly, he had an ah-ha! moment. He rushed to the door and asked to go out.
Even in my morning fog, I could see his thinking. ‘No breakfast? She’s forgotten the order of the routine. Better back up a few steps!’
I have dogs that do not like me raising my voice either. It has taught me patience and better self control of how I present myself. Thank you my dogs. I am human and do slip up every once in a while and they quickly show me with their faces that I did. I feel that this is something good that I can learn instead of unteaching my dogs .
Barb Stanek says
I have a new puppy, and it feels like we’ve been together forever. Feeling so, so blessed.
ellen goldman says
Omg we are so guilty of creating a behavior chain with our too smart 11 yo Aussie. Our large yard backs up to a wash (a river bed that only flows after heavy rains). We have a rod iron fence so the dogs can watch all the wildlife go by. So Riley likes to bark at the critters. He is now trained to come back when we call because he gets a treat, unless there are coyotes lurking about. But then he goes right back out to bark again. And treat and repeat. Help! How can we break the chain?
I love reading your blogs and books. I have laughed and cried many times. I only wish you could come to Arizona some time!
Robin Bennett says
Ha! So timely. We recently fenced in about an acre in our back yard. I wanted to practice Ranger’s recall so that if he was barking at the neighbors dog or a coyote or something I could easily get him back in without leaving the comfort of my deck (who wants to walk an acre to get the dog back? Not me. LOL!). So I have been letting him out and randomly calling him, giving a treat and letting him go back to play again. Well, I just told my husband that I think I have taught him to run to the center of the yard and lay down waiting for me to call him back in. HAHA Sometimes he doesn’t even sniff around the yard, he just runs to the center of the yard, lies down and waits patiently until I come out and call him. Dogs are so smart.
Vicki in Michigan says
One of my corgis learned that if he stayed out in the back yard until I called him, he’d get a treat, but if he just came in on his own, he wouldn’t. He’d sit out there with the biggest grin on his face, and come RUNNING when I called him. It was so cute I just enjoyed it. He never did graduate to asking to go out just so he could sit out there and be called in for a treat. 🙂
rita penner says
Long ago I had a dog who barked as soon as I spoke to anyone on our walks. I never was able to teach him to stop doing this. That made me think that if you yell at your dog to stop barking as many people do, that he thinks you’re helping him bark. The dog I have now has learned to bark at passerbys from another dog who visits occasionally. I just “shush” quietly, which seems to work. Mind you, he’s not far down this bad path.
Andrea Vazquez says
OH boy, I am still trying to find a way out of ANY chain with my seven month old BC. My issue is, I still have no real clue what the antecedent is that ignites her furious barking at… the TV (Turned off and doing nothing in a corner of the room). I have done the “reward for coming thingie”, ans saw exactly that happening: she would bark to get the reward! I am still at a loss, as her ignition reasons seem to be all over the place, from blowing my nose, to calling her sister’s name, to laughing, to… a fly in Jakarta? So yes, I relate…
I could tell many of my own stories, but most of the time I don’t even know that I am the trainee, so I’m going to tell a no-brainer that happened to a friend. Sharon, my friend, had a pug that she wanted to train to let her know when he needed to go outside to go potty. She had a fenced yard and could let him run out, do his business, and then come back in, when he was ready. So, she mounted a little bell at paw-level for him to ring. He learned quickly that he could go outside anytime he rang the bell. So, that sort of accomplished what she wanted, however, he started ringing the bell just to make her get up and pay attention to him, even when he didn’t really want to go outside. Her solution was to just go back to the old way, with no bell, and watch for cues when he needed to go potty instead. But it was fun for him while it lasted!
Micki Cianciosi says
My first rescue I fostered trained me pretty well on leash walks – he would run wild on the leash, I’d make a noise and he would come to investigate- I’d feed him at the seam of my pants on the side – and pretty soon he had me trained to give him a treat when he was at my side – run and pull – come back for a treat – rinse repeat – i finally figured out the treat had to be consistent with me keeping his prolonged attention – and then he slowly got that walking by my side was rewarding-
Anna W says
An interesting thing to note about noise sensitivities is that they could be a sign of pain, specifically things like hip dysplasia and arthritis and the like. My dog, Captain Picard, developed a noise phobia (he’s basically agoraphobic, even a car door in the distance could set him off – tail tucked, shaking, cowering, running home) because of it. We’re trying to figure out the right drug cocktail at the moment before working in more CC and DS training, but doing some mat work at the moment to prep for that.
I say all of this because it ended up being a sort of training chain that my fiance and I were completely unaware of us doing. Every time Captain would hear a noise that scared him, he would tense up and (unbeknownst to us) feel pain. Therefore, it got to the point that every time we took him outside on walks that we thought would help him (including lots of peanut butter and easy cheese), he was being negatively reinforced by the pain he would feel. So his noise anxiety turned into a phobia faster than I would like to admit! And now he is scared of specific areas (we still can’t use the front door of the house) because, according to the study, noise phobic dogs with underlying pain will actually associate locations with pain. And it’s exactly what has happened in our case!
Just thought I’d pass along since it’s super interesting and similar (but very different) than this topic! 🙂 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-sensitive-to-noise/
I’ve lived with cats all my life and cats are absolute masters of behavior chains as well as being genius trainers of humans. As a result I don’t get caught in too many chains anymore. I’m more inclined to use the chains to my advantage. Finna started her life with us with no clue how to live with people or how to predict what would happen next. She came from an animal hoarding situation. Building chains that helped her predict what would happen next gave her a chance to relax and the opportunity to get ready for the thing that would happen next. I like knowing what’s going on and what’s likely to happen next so it made sense to me that constantly being on edge not knowing what would be happening wasn’t a comfortable way to live. So we built her chains that would help her navigate her new world. Now she knows that as long as I’m sitting in my chair she’s safe resting on the futon on the other side of the room. This is only a challenge July 4 when everyone in our neighborhood is setting off fireworks from dawn to dawn. Finna handles it pretty well as long as I sit in my chair. I’m usually exhausted by the time the explosions wind down but she’s OK so it’s worth it. My favorite example of the behavior chain in action shows off just how brilliant Finna is. She’d started fence fighting the dog next door through the six foot wood privacy fence. I was using the premack principle of knowing that fence fighting was likely to reinforce not fence fighting–use a likely behavior to reinforce a less likely one. Finna went out one day and instigated a fence fight just so she could not participate in it in order to get rewards. It only happened once because she got her reward but also a consequence she didn’t want when I put the leash on her and took her back in the house. Starting a fight in order to not fight in order to get treats. I still shake my head over that one.
Kelly Schlesinger says
My border collie does the same things as Ana Schnellmann’s golden. He gets a shoe from the closet and drops it in front of the toy box, then looks at me, at the shoe, at the toys. It always makes me laugh.
He also picks up trash on our hikes. I am usually anxious to get the beer can/water bottle/golf ball/WD-40 can from him so give him a great reward for handing it to me. Now I have to carry a trash bag on our hikes to bring home all the treasures he finds. At least I can preserve my reputation by having something in which to hide the beer cans.
Jan Murphy says
I’m really sorry to waste everybody’s bandwidth with this question. In a recent email(or maybe a blog post) Trisha was talking about Maggie and leash training. I’d have sworn I saved the post, because I didn’t have time right then to look at it closely, plus she mentioned a couple of harnesses? head halters?, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m going to need. Anyway, after doing a lot of looking, I have to fess up that either I didn’t save it, or I just can’t find it. Could I please get some help? My mostly-BC is still pretty young and and I don’t want him come to dread walking because the harness/head halter is too aversive for him.
I’ve done almost the opposite behavior chain with my dogs. They have a tendency to bark at anything going down the street that they see through the living room windows. When they bark, I say “Oh, you’re telling me you want to go to your crate? Okay!” in a cheery, upbeat voice. Then I take them to a crate, put them in (often giving a cookie for going in the crate), and shutting the door for a minute or so. They look at me as though I’m incredibly stupid for not recognizing that invaders are storming the castle, but my cheerfulness and cookies keep them going in the crate readily. After a minute or two of silence, I let them out. Lather, rinse, repeat. Although both dogs are fine with being crated and sometimes sleep in the crates by choice, they don’t really like to share a crate. Their distaste for being crated together outweighs their taste for cookies, so the barking starts to reduce. I do have to be very consistent, but it’s worth it to see them remember mid-bark that they don’t want to do that or the nasty looks they shoot one another if only one forgets and barks (both get crated since I can’t always tell who barked). Once established, the nonbarking usually lasts for the summer. In the winter the blinds are down and they forget the cost of barking at movement, so I refresh in the spring when the blinds go up again.
MaryLynne Barber says
Been there, etc. Trying to train my Rottie not to bark at a horse along the road to my house, resulted in his not barking, but drooling in anticipation of his treat – Pavlov was right! Never did break him of that.
I’m not able to search the archives right now, but I’m not a fan of head collars unless it’s a large dog and a safety issues. I probably was talking about harnesses that attach on the chest, not the back. They can be great while your dog is learning loose leash walking, but some brands can also be hard on a dogs shoulders, so check them out.
Well, this is brilliant!
This was such a great read, and a relief it’s not just me ! Really useful advice to address the issue created.
Whenever I see my dogs putting two and two together and coming up with yet another plan to get more treats I am reminded of myself as a very small child.
I woke one night from a bad dream and took myself off to my parents’ bedroom for comfort, but they had not yet gone to bed. I sat in the middle of their bed, still crying, until my mother heard me and swept me downstairs to warm up by the fire and share their supper of bacon sandwiches, before tucking me back into bed with a hug and a kiss. The next night I lay in bed for what felt like hours and hours, before once more nipping along to my parents’ bedroom and sitting on their bed making not-very-convincing sobbing sounds. My ever-alert mother found me within minutes, said “Nice try – BED!”, and that was that. I can hear exactly the same intonation in my own voice to this day, when Sophy tries to add another biscuit ritual to the day!
Chris from Boise says
MaryLynne: Is this the post you needed, from July 8, 2018? https://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/leash-manners-revisited
or from Feb13, 2017:
Kristin Luker says
Great post! Here’s a chain problem I can’t figure out how to fix. My Golden, Mo, trains in competitive obedience (just for fun.) When he decides he should have more attention paid to him, he retrieves a book, newspaper, magazine or journal and brings them to me. With a perfect front, a polite wait until I say “give” and then the release. But if I am not home, he SHREDS said articles. A management problem, you say? My husband is sort of an academic hoarder, and it’s just not realistic to put all such items above Golden nose level. (Our house is filled with bookcases, and the idea of clearing the bottom four or five shelves of all of them gives me a nervous breakdown. Closing doors is not an option either. ) Thoughts?
Mary Seibel says
Many, many years ago I adopted a Dutchy that was afraid of everything. (First lesson – when a breeder rejects/dumps a dog, there is something going on!) I was woefully unprepared to manage his insecurities and initially did what many inexperienced dog owners do – I tried to comfort/reassure the dog in the throws of fear. I was unknowingly rewarding his insecure behavior with my affection. And so the chain goes. Then I got some professional advice and ended up with the best dog I have ever had. Together we overcame my ignorance. I miss that sweet soul every day!
Mary, I’m so glad you ended up with such a wonderful dog! But you might want to revisit the long standing belief that comforting a frightened dog makes them worse… not always true at all. But again, here’s t the memory of your Dutchy.
Lynn Ungar says
Uh, yup. Meant to teach Tesla the Aussie not to mob people with his affection. Instead I taught him reel people in with his wiggly butt, grin and staring blue eyes. Then when they go to pet him he turns around and stares at me: “Cookie now?” Oops.
Mary Beam says
I have created the same behavior chain, a common one it appears, as Dr. Jen. Now I ask myself “what am I training” when my dog makes his own decision on what I want and it is different from what I thought he would do. I have a breed that thinks for itself and doen’t hesitate to make decisions and mine sometimes jump ahead and add behaviors. Training them isn’t always easy but it’s always fun.
I’m a little confused on something here…I thought that the dog only associates a reward with something they JUST did. I have a neighbor who’s dog was in the kitchen and she yelled at him and then once he left the kitchen she yelled “you know better than that!!” (Ugh 🙄). I’m working toward EVENTUALLY becoming a professional dog trainer (after tons more studying 🙂 My neighbor knows this and said to me “see, now what should I do there?!” I answered (as I refrained from saying “please get goldfish next time”) “Well, one thing is… the moment he left the kitchen, you want to actually reward that”. And of course she said… “Well I’m not going to reward the dog for running all around the kitchen and then leaving”. I explained to her it’s actually just the last thing that he did- the decision to get out of the kitchen- is what you’d be rewarding him for”.
So now I’m confused… My brain’s going to explode 🙂 Clarification anyone? I’d be most grateful!