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The THIRD WAY'S Goals for Good Guidance - Goals Five and Six

By Chris Bach and The Third Way – The Next Generation in Reinforcement Training

Chris concludes this very important series by examining the final fundamental goals for good guidance.

Goal Number Five: Guides teach what to do as opposed to what not to do.

It is possible to teach a dog ONLY what TO DO because a response can be manipulated, controlled and most importantly, reinforced.

But it is impossible to teach a dog NOT to do something. The possibilities of what they are not doing are endless! It is NOT possible to manipulate, control or reinforce something that is not taking place. Also, a dog is only aware of what they are doing. They are never contemplating what they are not doing. For example, a dog is never aware that during the greeting process he is not jumping or mouthing, or pawing, or nudging, or whatever! Therefore it would be impossible to teach him not to jump on people as opposed to mouthing, pawing, nudging, etc. It would only be possible to teach him what to do such as sit and look at people in order to earn the reinforcement of social contact!

Effective guides plan teaching, problem preventing and problem solving programs based on what they want the dog to learn to do, not what they want the dog not to do. Each and every time the dog is stopped or one of his behaviors is interfered with, he is immediately shown what he should do. In other words when teaching, problem preventing or problem solving, guides always follow a “Don’t do that” with a definitive “Do this!”

Goal Number Six: Guides must be guides at all times.

Dogs, especially puppies, must be under the influence of good guidance at all times because unless the dog is asleep, he is learning something. No one can turn off the learning process. But good guidance and management will allow you to influence in your favor many of the lessons your dog learns.

To this end, it must immediately be established who are guides and who are non-guides within any given household. The guide or guides must control and educate not only the dog, but also all the “non-guides” who are visiting or members of the household. A guide is in charge of making arrangements so that the dog is being properly managed at all times, including in their absence. They must have specific management tools and procedures established for times when they are not around. Guides, not non-guides, are responsible to see that these things are done correctly.

When the established guide is not able to be with the dog, another individual may be designated as the temporary guide. But because children, friends, relatives and other dogs do not make good guides, it may prove to be the wisest strategy to arrange for appropriate management procedures and make sure they are applied.

For example, if a non-guide arrives home first, they either leave the dog alone until a guide arrives home, or they have a specific routine established to let the dog out which assures that the dog cannot learn any bad habits. If household members cannot be depended upon to follow all procedures, guides have the option of locking the crate or room doors to prevent unwanted mishaps until such time that the dog has developed all the right habits!

A good guide realizes that learning is taking place at all times unless a dog is asleep and that only a guide is in charge of teaching the dog.

The best adage a new dog owner can adhere to is “Get a dog, become a dog trainer”. A dog, especially a puppy, is a learning machine! Dogs are always experimenting with the riches within their environment. They are discovering what is pleasurable, how to get it, how to keep it, and how people fit into this picture. Only sleep turns off their mental machinery.

An exemplary guide is always in the position to teach his dog the information that is necessary to become a good pet and a good member of human society. A good guide recognizes that there is no such thing as “training time” vs. “non-training time”. They know that learning is taking place at all times when a dog is awake. They know that to have an obedient, responsive dog they must take the time to teach their dog how to respond to their cues and MANAGE them at all times to prevent the dog from accidentally learning skills that are undesirable.

Here is an example of accidental learning that can take place easily. Puppies love to play. Yours is no exception. One puppy’s idea of play may be different than another puppy’s idea, but all puppies seek mental and physical stimulation. People are very good at facilitating play so your puppy will be watching you and other household members closely for the opportunity to engage someone in some sort of stimulating activity. Unless a guide is aware of what is happening, the puppy can accidentally learn the WRONG ways and the WRONG times to solicit play!

This happens because typically when people return home after being away, the routine is to let the puppy out of confinement to relieve himself. Once that mission is accomplished, the puppy is brought back into the house and allowed to be out of confinement. Meanwhile, household members go about their business of doing necessary chores such as picking up, preparing meals, or doing laundry. The puppy quickly learns to stay out of the way or get stepped on. But when people finally sit down in one place to relax, the puppy now perceives this as a safe time to approach and solicit activity. Almost any response a person can make to the puppy’s advances creates mental and physical stimulation for him. So anything he does works as far as he is concerned. Thus he gets into the habit of interacting with people on their cue of sitting down to relax! Once this habit is formed, the puppy will become very frustrated and agitated by any attempts to change this behavior pattern. As a result, new even more undesirable responses such as barking, defensive mouthing, jumping on laps or intensified pawing will become part of the scenario making the habit increasingly difficult to deal with.

All this can and should be prevented through good guidance.

Upon arrival from an absence, the dog is allowed to relieve himself and then the guide either solicits play while doing chores, or playing with the dog as a singular activity becomes a priority BEFORE sitting down to relax. Then when sitting down to relax, the guide makes sure that the dog is somehow confined so he cannot solicit activity from anyone. Tethering is a good technique for this purpose. The dog learns that when the family relaxes it is also the time for him to relax. Also, because the guide is always the one to initiate play, the guide is able to teach the dog to get a toy and sit at a person’s feet and wait quietly and calmly until they choose to interact with him.

Summary of good guidance goals

Guiding a puppy or dog at all times, either by active participation in his every move, or through appropriate management, results in the pooch learning to live with you and all people in peace and harmony. Good guidance assures that you will establish and maintain the all-important safety history between the dog and people, be able to prevent bad habits from forming and creates the ability to teach the dog how you wish him to respond under all circumstances.

(c) THE THIRD WAY ~ Chris Bach ~ 2002 - 2003. All rights reserved.