Capture Anything "Good"

Capture something, anything good. Old obedience training models focused on rewarding dogs only after they responded to a cue. While modern training reinforces behaviors performed on cue, it also focuses on reinforcing behavior that a dog performs on their own. At any given moment, your dog is doing something you can reinforce.

  • Standing

  • Sitting

  • Lying down

  • Looking at you

Your dog may also NOT be doing behavior(s) you want to discourage.

  • Not jumping

  • Not pulling toward or barking at a squirrel, cat, dog, etc.

  • Not being underfoot in the kitchen

  • Not begging for food

So, what does NOT doing those things look like?

  • Standing (four on the floor)

  • Looking away from squirrel, cat, dog, etc.

  • Lying on a mat outside the kitchen

  • Lying on a mat away from the table

I was once asked by a pet food company to attend a public event and talk to people about positive reinforcement training and answer their training questions. Because we had done several local news spots earlier that day, we had a good turnout. Lots of people came to get free goodies. As often happens at these events, more than a few dogs began to bark at the other dogs, including a large German Shepherd. So I put the power of positive reinforcement to work in a real-world setting. And I only did one thing: I captured (marked and rewarded) any behavior other than pulling or barking at the other dogs. I wasn't looking for perfection. Looking away from another dog was enough. Looking at the owner was great. But for only a few minutes, we worked on just capturing anything other than barking and pulling. And with a few minutes of training, the German Shepherd was successfully making the choice to look away from another dog. It wasn't perfect. It was only a few minutes of training, after all. But he was making clear choices to look away instead of bark. Many people struggle with this concept at first, because they're so used to the idea that the dog has to DO something for the treat. But when we learn to look for behaviors that are, in fact, the dog doing something other than the behavior we're trying to stop, there are a lot of possibilities. So, when you head out with your dog this week, practice capturing anything good and see what happens. -------------------- Note: Behaviors aren't really "good" or "bad." Dogs just operate in ways that work for them in this crazy human world, after all. But many dog owners do see them this way, so I use the term "good" here instead of "behaviors that are acceptable to you." Brevity, and all that.

 

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