“Timing, Criteria, Reinforcement”

April 4, 2009

I have a confession to make… I really am a lousy blogger.  This blog reminds me of all the record keeping books I have started; the first few pages are packed with relevant information and comments but the pages following are completely blank.  But as I sit here pool side in Arizona soaking up the hot desert sun I can’t help but feel a titch of guilt, so here I am back in the blogging world!  Seeing as my “quantity” has been lacking lately I will try my best to make it up with some “quality” posts.

Today’s post is dedicated to all the students and fellow dog trainers out there struggling with an issue that they feel is somehow specific to them and their dog and seems hopelessly impossible to fix.  We have all been there and every dog has their issue, but how is it that you endure and overcome these struggles?  My dogs have all had their fair share of struggles, whether it was Bounder who was timid and extremely soft, Chase and his bar knocking issues, Riot’s inability to show any form of self control, or Preston who managed to run full speed between obstacles and somehow still managed to pick up a horse turd to snack on half way through a course. 

Every dog will have their own struggle, but its how you react and respond to these issues that will result in either triumph or defeat.  I am of the opinion that it is never the dogs fault, likewise Susan Garrett has a well known quote that reads “Your dog is a reflection of your abilities as a trainer”.  The quote is not meant to punish people for their lack of skill or understanding but rather to give them hope.  If the dog is merely a reflection of what you do and what you know than that means rather than giving up on the dog you have the power to change your own behavior and consequently fix the issue.

It sounds far too simple but all dog training is is finding a way to communicate to the dog what it is that you want, then making it worth the dogs while.  One of the most important things I have learned about dog training from Say Yes  is to view behavior as a science rather than becoming emotionally involved.  If you dog is giving you an unwanted behavior it is because it has somehow been reinforced, not because the dog is stubborn or wants to frustrate you.  Bob Bailey says its all about “Timing, Criteria and Reinforcement” if things are not going well evaluate those three things and you will find the answer. 

By simplifying your seemingly unsolvable issue into just three simple things you can find a way to communicate to the dog what it is that you want and then follow up the correct responses with loads and loads of positive reinforcement, its just that easy.

Happy Training!

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8 Responses to ““Timing, Criteria, Reinforcement””

  1. Fanny said

    Oh, that’s really unfair! You’re poolside in Arizona and we have fog and a mix of snow and mud. And I’ve had a nasty cold that won’t go away. What are you doing in Arizona btw?

    Great post anyway! See you in June!

  2. I like this post! Especially the hopeful wiev on Susan’s quote, I tend to be a bit ashamed of my dogs’ misbehaving, since I’m very aware that I’m the one to blame…
    Look forward to seeing you in august, I got a spot on both the handling camp and the running contacts clinic, so this year I’m back with a schipperke who DOES actually tug. Finally 🙂

  3. Thank you for your voice of sanity in dog training! I actually find some kind of solace in the fact that my dog’s progress is limited by my abilities. It means that so long as I keep learning and improving my skills, there will always be hope for his continuing progress. That’s in regard to my fearful dog. As far as the others go, I just wish I could teach them not to hog all the covers.

  4. Mija said

    I agree with Fanny, great post! I got so inspired that I will have to train immediately. 😉

  5. Gisela said

    good to hear from you Justine! keep on blogging.

  6. Fanny said

    I heard that you made the world team with Riot. Way to go! I’ll be in Austria cheering for you.

  7. Chantal said

    Yeah!!! welcome back to the world of blogging
    &;>)

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