Using management as part of classical conditioning 

The most important thing in behavioral training is to help the dog not to perform an undesired behavior.

As much as we might wish so, we do not have a magic wand to wave that enables the dog to understand how we would like him to behave.

Example: Your puppy notices that when you have dinner there are deliciously wonderful smells emanating from the table top and of course he wants to explore and devour the aromatic foods up there. That is perfectly natural. Wouldn’t you?

But luckily someone in your life has taught you a certain amount of impulse control, also known as manners, that allow you to gracefully wait until through some social signal you learn that it is OK to take one of those freshly baked brownies or taste that delicious cheese.

Your dog/puppy however does not yet have the necessary social skills to cope with the temptations that set off the “bad” behavior. Until that time it is a great idea to help the dog and not to tempt the dog in the first place.

With a little attention to forethought you can “manage” this problem behavior. Offer your dog a salient and delicious treat of his own and start associating the appearance of human food on the table with a highly rewarding activity for your pup. Give him a very special treat of his own in his crate to keep him busy and extremely happy.

Timing however is of the essence: If you wait for the dog to bark, whine, jump up and then decide: oh we better put him in the crate with a nice stuffed KONG.: You are reinforcing a chain of behaviors…I bark/jump/whine and then I get SOMETHING. Attention plus something nice to lick. The begging behavior will be reinforced.

If however you are able to time your KONG/crate delivery before the dog starts to beg/jump/whine you might even help condition the dog to run to look for his treat or simply run to his “spot” or bed because setting the table can be used as a predictor of KONG in crate to come and the dog will happily run to the crate in anticipation of a KONG treat.

The laws of intermittent reinforcement will then allow you to phase out the KONG feeding and you will only have to reward your dog once in a while for automatically running to his spot/crate and waiting for dinner to be over.

With consistency managing your dog can be turned into “training” and learning.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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