ARTICLES & ADVICE
FAMILY HISTORY & GENEALOGY
Do dogs count? Yes!
How high does your dog count? Think of the
times you have asked
your dog to
do something and it takes three or four times before they actually do
have asked. Is your your dog is stubborn or stupid, probably not. Your
dog is counting to the "magic number" that you actually expect them to
behave and do as you ask. Whether you know it or not, you have trained
your pooch to do exactly what you want.
Reinforcement is the basis of all animal training – intentional or
Unintentional reinforcement happens when you unknowingly reward or
reinforce an undesirable
behavior. This usually happens when you mean well, but accidentally
tell your dog to do something different than you really want it to do.
If you tell your dog "SIT" twice, you are teaching your dog that the
first command is worthless and should be ignored. Eventually, you begin
and then the fourth command and before long you have unintentionally
the Carlos, the incredible counting canine.
You may have had this happen in your household. The postal carrier,
FedEx driver or really any other person comes to the door and you tell
the dog to "STAY" while you open the door. You
with the person and your dog wanders away. You have now unintentionally
reinforced that STAY means sit still for a moment and then leave. To
help your dog understand what you really want, you need to be specific
and make sure your dog performs the command the same way every time you
ask. If the dog does something different, you need to correct and
redirect to the behavior you asked for.
Timid and shy dogs offer a whole new aspect to unintentional
reinforcement. When encountering a new situation your dog may be shy,
timid or tentative and you being the loving owner that you are, reach
down and pet the dog while talking in soothing, cooing tones. You might
even catch yourself saying something like "It's okay mommy's little
sweetie." What your dog understands from your stroking and gentle voice
means, "Great job! This is exactly what I want you to do! I love it
you are shy and timid!" In an instant, you have reinforced the
timid behavior that you were hoping to discourage.
As weird as this may seem, the same thing applies to aggressive dogs.
Picture walking your dog and having a
approach. Your dog feels unsure and may raise hackles or
growling. You reach down and stroke the dog talking in
Just like the shy, timid dog, this dog now knows that hackles and
good and that you like when they treat strangers that way.
Barking dogs can be unintentionally reinforced too. A dog
barking and yapping up a storm in the yard gets brought inside so the
neighbors don't complain. Now you've taught the dog that barking gets
them indoors. One of my clients told me that they don't bring the
dog inside, they yell, "SHUT
UP!" like a fish monger out of the window. Weird isn't it? Even
screaming from a distant window tells the dog that is exactly what you
want from them. Lonely dogs, starving for
welcome the horrible harsh corrections that their owners may dole
Like a lot of things,
recognizing that there is an issue is the first step in correcting the
problem. Sometimes it helps to keeps a tracking chart for a week to ten
days so you can quickly see patterns.
For the first half of
week, tally the number of times the behavior you wish to eliminate
not make any changes during this initial time period; just keep
For the second half of the week, correct the behavior in your usual
keep track of the number of times the behavior occurs. Here's where
learn how to tell if your actions are correcting or reinforcing the
If the frequency of the "problem" does not noticeably reduce by your
action, then you are not correcting the behavior. If the frequency of
"problem" is increased by your action/correction then the action is
reinforcing the behavior.
The next thing you need to accomplish is effectively correcting or
unwanted behavior. Reinforced behavior will increase and behaviors that
reinforced will decrease and eventually disappear -- this is called
extinction. Each time your dog
you with the problem behavior use it as an opportunity to train the
you desire. This method will also show you areas that you and your dog
work on. If you use good leadership skills and management along with
positive reinforcement training you should be well on the way to
creating a happy and
productive working relationship with your dog.
Animals love consistency and you'll love what consistency will do for
you and your companion.
If you SAY IT, MEAN IT. If you MEAN IT, ENFORCE IT.
for doing something right.