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But my dog isn’t listening….



Here’s an example: Say I’ve been working with a young dog for six months on sitting when asked. We’ve proofed the behavior in a million contexts, and Fido has gotten 10 gazillion pieces of chicken and 5 gazillion other times he’s got to run and play with another dog when he did as asked. Now we’re at home, there’s little going on, but Fido didn’t sit when I gave the cue. I’m as sure as one can be without speaking ‘dog” that there’s nothing physically bothering him, he just seems more interested in ignoring me and going somewhere else to sniff. I’ll take a piece of said chicken, let him sniff it and then withdraw it, saying, melodramatically, “Too bad…. ” and possibly, depending on the state of the chicken and my stomach, “Mmmm, this sure is good! Too bad you don’t get any.”

The paragraph above is from this article:

In contrast to McConnell I would not do that.

I would rather blame myself for having asked the dog to do something it was not ready to do or simply accepting the fact that the “sit” behavior has not yet been completely learned. In dog training there is no room for: “by now she should really know the ‘sit’ already” thought.

At first it seems a bit counter intuitive. But in my mind, if I am to use my sense of logic and follow it through with consistency then I have to follow the mantra: Reinforced behaviors repeat in the future.

I believe that giving the dog attention and teasing the dog with the piece of chicken would actually reinforce the dog’s latent behavior by rewarding it with attention ( in this case the game of pretending the chicken is now mine) , or accidentally chaining that behavior to the sit behavior ( making the sit behavior contingent on a game of tease and THEN the dog sits).

Here is how I would go about this:

I will  ask the dog to do something else and ignore the dog’s inability to follow the original “sit” cue. When I have the dog’s attention back again I will ask the dog to “sit” again. When the dog sits I will JACKPOT the dog for sitting. In other words I will remind the dog how valuable the “SIT” behavior is.

I have had terrific results with this method.



  1. How adorable! Such manners for Nono and Sia. Very creative on the adults end.

    Comment by karen on June 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm
  2. That is totally hilarious! Great job and really fun to watch!

    Comment by Fran on June 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm
  3. Actually my friend and website designer Kendra Dixson was the person who sent me the video. So 99% of the credit goes to her!

    Comment by Elisabeth on June 11, 2011 at 7:55 am
  4. Hee hee, well a good friend of mine forwarded it to me so the list goes on. I think it is so cute and I’m amazed at how well the dogs are behaved, although you do see a little help from the human hands so they don’t dive their noses into their dish. lol

    Comment by Kendra Dixson on June 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm
  5. yes the dogs are great! I also liked HOW they helped the dogs by pretending it was a human “putting your chin in your hands” gesture. It is most entertaining.

    Comment by Elisabeth Weiss on June 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm