Changing Challenging Behaviour

With it being a lovely morning, we’ve just been having a play session in the back garden. Sounds great, except for one annoying thing…Mint decided to run round in circles yapping, which is not good for the neighbours or for me, let alone the dog as she just winds herself up. You can see her typical behaviour in the photo above…barking in the face of another dog
So, what did I do? Remember that I am outside with multiple dogs not just one.
Shout at her? – Nope. cos that would have just made her worse (she’d have got more stressed) and it isn’t a reward based technique. It might have made me feel better,
Did I use ‘no’ to stop her behaviour? Nope, as that doesn’t tell her what to do and what effect would it have had on the other dogs that were just playing quietly.
Did I use a Non Reward Marker (NRM) such as oops or wrong? Nope. Again these NRMs don’t tell her what to do, all they do is interrupt behaviour so that another could be offered. Well the only thing she was likely to offer in that situation was more running in circles and barking, so the NRM would not be very effective and I would have become frustrated very quickly. I do find that NRMs can be very punishing for a dog and can slow down their learning. I also needed to be aware of the effect of an NRM on the other dogs that may well have been behaving appropiately when I used the NRM.
Did I use a positive interuppter (something that the dog has been conditioned to see as positive and can be used to interrupt a behaviour chain)? No, mainly cos there are multiple dogs playing and I don’t want to interrupt their play, I only need to stop Mint running round and yapping. I would have used it if they were all barking and then rewarded them all for stopping.
Did I train another behaviour? Yes! I went and got some treats and rewarded Mint for sitting and offering eye contact. As I went to get the treats, the other dogs stopped playing for a short while which gave me the opportunity to reward Mint for offering eye contact and then sitting and offering eye contact whilst there was no playing. My dogs are pretty clued up to being trained as a group and soon realised that they weren’t ‘on duty’ as such and off they went to play again. Mint stayed put and was rewarded for sitting and offering eye contact and we gradually built up how long she looked at me. Then more distractions were added as I started to interact with one or two of the other dogs whilst still requiring Mint to sit and offer eye contact (so I was kicking a ball for one of the other dogs, talking to some of the others, telling on to find it and so on) and I even progressed to some fetch training with Rush so that Rush was bringing the ball back to me and being rewarded with a treat whilst Mint remained sitting and offering eye contact. The other dogs got the occasional treat to keep them from feeling left out.
Great session that resulted in a calm owner, calm dogs and loads of positive interaction on all counts and Mint learned that she could be calm whilst the other dogs were playing rather than getting wound up about it all.
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Author: caninetutor

Fully qualified dog trainer and educator, delivering workshops around the UK.

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