Thursday, August 4, 2011

My dog is a thinker……….

and he doesn't like to be wrong.

If I had a dollar, okay - $100, for every time I heard this, 
I would NEVER have to work again! 

On the flip side, how many people will say, “My dog’s as dumber than a box of rocks.” 
I would bet, not often.  Hopefully, never from you.

So, dogs are thinkers.  That’s great news! 

Here’s another thought.  If your dog is a thinker, and doesn’t like to be wrong……
how do you suppose he knows he’s wrong?  Who defines ‘wrong’?   
How does the dog learn that he is wrong, and that wrong is bad?   
Wrong, is defined by the trainer - that would be you. 
Whether wrong is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is also defined by you. 

So, something else to think about…... What if being wrong was okay?  
 What if being ‘wrong’ just meant ‘try again’.  Wouldn’t that be AWESOME!! 

That’s really what I love about clicker training tricks, or shaping behaviors.   
The dog keeps trying different things (even if he is ‘wrong’) to get the reward.   
He tries the ‘wrong’ things, with just as much enthusiasm as the ‘right’ things.   
Remember – right or wrong is defined by the trainer.   
After awhile, the ‘right’ things just happen more often, 
because that’s what's being reinforced.   
When he's ‘wrong’, he don’t stop trying!   

Positive reinforcement, withholding the reward, or even 
denying access to a reinforcer, is so easy!
This actually takes less time, and the behaviors are more reliable 
than when trained with compulsion or ‘force’.   
Compulsion methods often result in a dog that develops 
‘learned helplessness’ (or shutting down).   
The dog ends up saying, “Unless you do it for me, I just can’t.” 

With positive reinforcement, you don’t get the stress licking, the pinned ears, and the low tail wag.   
I’m not saying that the dog has zero stress, they do.   
Just like any other animal that’s trying to figure out the answer, it is stressful.   
They just react differently because they don’t fear the outcome if they get it ‘wrong’.  
You also get better 'generalized' behaviors with shaping.

Some of the behaviors you can get from shaping are truly amazing.   
A few of my favorites are Cougar sitting on the edge of a suitcase; Mad’s back up shuffle;
Seeker’s backing up onto a wall, into a hand stand.  

If you can get these, why not others? 

"I’m just saying…………"

Thanks to those brilliant trainers (Susan Garrett and Silvia Trkman) 
for helping me ‘think outside, (or inside) the box’!!   
You ladies ROCK!!


  1. We are trying very hard - it's my clicking ability that sometimes gets in the way. We are having a blast with it all! Thanks for helping me "think outside the box" or at least follow your lead. We'll get there.

  2. Nicely written ;-) Love ST and SG. Off to play with a box!