Captain Opportunity

dog looking at food

I’m a week in to a 3 week board and train with a 6 month old GSD and there are plenty of behaviors that I want to work on that aren’t traditional obedience like sit, down, come, etc.  While we are working on these every day, I realized for the thousandth time that its the jumping, encroaching while eating, getting in my way, barking, pacing that drive me crazy.  Well crazy enough. I happen to have my two dogs and two others here as well so I have a lot going on in my smallish two bedroom.  The new stirrings and erratic movements of a puppy shepherd in the home can be irksome when you are used to calm and this is what I am sure my clients feel with their new pups and rescued dogs with poor manners.

Why was I fighting what I new I had to do. It was so easy. I didn’t have to get a clicker out or a leash( although a tether would help), just have some handy treats around which I already did and finally get up off my lazy butt.  Training never stops and I need to be as accountable as I expect my clients to.  What would I tell them if they were in this position?  Of course, the same thing I almost always say. Manage first, look for alternate incompatible behaviors to reinforce and correct last if at all. 

So while I was eating steak and watching TV at the coffee table trying to keep the puppy from hovering I decided to stop using the failing leave it cure that was not proofed and under stimulus control.  I grabbed some really good bacon jerky and sat back down.  Even though the jerky drew the dogs in more (conditioned response to grabbing treats) I was able to reinforce the leave it and walk over and set the puppy into place which we are also learning.  My dogs were fine and listening and now I was actually training.  I started with a big piece of jerky and then randomly tossed jerky on the mat so the pup couldn’t tell when they were coming. When he got up once I shaped him back and reinforced faster for a bit.  Soon he started going there on his own if he got up.  There really is nothing like training in real life anyway.   How else would you expect to get the pup to learn?  I wasn’t using punishment and so he wasn’t going to generalize the behavior without adding the distractions and the changed, more challenging environment.

The same went for the rest of the days training.  I did a lot of work on counter surfing and I did two session on shaping a back up cue.  The down, sit, place and leave it we already worked on payed off but the real training started when I got uncomfortable and got off my butt.  Instead of getting frustrated and fighting with your dog, or yelling or getting mad because your dog is an opportunist and doest know the rules, take a deep breath and think, what would my trainer say?  Be the same opportunist, and reinforce something else that you want.  Set up the environment to make what ever it is easier and when you fail, try again.  Im sure your dog loves you for this too.

About ocdogman

I am a private dog trainer and behavior consultant in Orange County California. I focus on making training and conditioning simple and offer insight to common problems faces by the majority of dog owners. I employ several methods of training using corrections and varied reinforcers. I generally stand by limiting aversive principles and focus on the behaviors I would like to teach using food and marker training. I often encounter nutrition issues and have been successful in remedying many leading to more focused, relaxed and balanced dogs.
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