Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Unwanted Behavior Chains

Many people will accidentally train their dogs to jump on a visitor then sit. Or jump on the counter then get off.  Or pull on the leash then return to heel position.

These are created with good intentions. The owner sees the error, then asks for another behavior and reinforces.  The dog learns that if he jumps on a visitor, he will get the person to say Sit, which will give him a chance to sit for a treat. They're great at learning these patterns.

The owners get frustrated because the dogs continually jump up.  

How do we resolve the situation?

Early on, it's important that reinforce the dog for making good choices.  But it's just as important that we move to working at that "Point of Success" where the dog is able to respond correctly -without- first making an error.  Have the visitors far enough away that your dog will not jump. Work far enough from the distraction that your dog will not pull on leash.

It's especially challenging because we like to do "just one more" or "just one step closer" and then errors happen.  Resist the temptation!  Reinforce while you're ahead and then set up another repetition.

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