Can You Do It in a Box?
We all remember Dr. Seuss and his fabulous books. Green Eggs & Ham is one I refer to very frequently when it comes to dog training and with my students.
Let’s look at a simple behavior like “Sit”. It’s something most of us will teach our dogs to do. Likely, your dog will sit each and every time you are in the kitchen with a treat in your hand. But then….you’re on the front porch when a dog walks by and you ask your dog to sit. What’s his choice? A massive amount of complexity has just been added to a seemingly simple behavior for the dog that he’s not been prepared for yet in his education, right?
There are layers of learning to any behavior we want to teach our dogs and distractions are added in by us strategically in order to protect our dog’s confidence and grow his capability to perform the learned behavior anywhere we ask. Layering the learning and splitting the behaviors into small bits help our dogs make complex decisions and good choices in the face of distractions.
My Dog Knows Better!
It is important to know that dogs learn patterns of reinforcement very well. They are also masters of figuring out patterns of punishment and they want to avoid that punishment. That’s why a dog may look ‘guilty’ but in reality it’s just a look of appeasement to avoid any punishment. If he has peed on the floor while you were away at work all day and you come home and he doesn’t greet you at the door, it’s not because he feels guilty. It’s because the association of pee on the floor and you coming home means it won’t be a happy reunion for the dog and it’s best to avoid you as it’s always been a pattern of punishment for him. In essence, dogs do what’s safe and reinforcing, period.
So now, ask yourself, how would your training change if you believe your dog is doing the best he can? What does that idea do when you turn the magnifying glass on yourself? When we think our dog is doing his best, we can ask ourselves these critical questions: Did I put my dog in the right environment? Did I give him enough education?
It’s like you gave your kid the keys to the Porsche the same day you gave him the key to your liquor cabinet! That’s too many choices and some bad ones are going to be made…and that’s what happens to our dogs.
Green Eggs & Ham
So now what? The most important thing to do is to change the way your dog’s education happens and from my experience, that education begins by playing games. Can you do it in a box? Can you do it with a fox? Can you do it here? Can you do it there? Can you do it anywhere?
*Your dog is doing his best with the education you’ve given him in the environment you’re asking him to perform in. *
Leave me a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what games you’re playing with your dog :-3