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The THIRD WAY'S Goals for Good Guidance - Goal Number Four: Looking at the second and third pro-active precautions

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

Chris talks about the second and third pro-active precautions.

Guidance Requires That You Take Three Pro-Active Precautions.

First Precaution: Keep Pup’s Environment Safe.

Second Precaution: At All Times Have the Ability to STOP Inappropriate Behavior.

Pro-active guidance requires that when a dog first comes into your life, you get to know him through constant observation and good management. This will enable you to anticipate what responses you can expect from him under many different circumstances. Armed with this knowledge, you will be prepared to guide and manage his activities so that inappropriate behavior is prevented, or can immediately be stopped while still maintaining that all-important safety history!

Also as your dog matures, you will want to reassess diligently and then rearrange your dog’s environment to prevent the repetition of any inappropriate or harmful behavior that occurs unexpectedly. Is there anyone who would allow a two, three, or four-year-old child to run around in a house unsupervised? Puppies change as they grow and can get into as much danger and mischief as toddlers can! Rather than reacting to a situation, you will want to plan ahead and take the necessary steps to keep your puppy safe. Confine him when you cannot give him your complete and undivided attention. When the puppy is not confined, you must always be prepared to stop and prevent the repetition of inappropriate behaviors by supervision and proper management.

When the pup is out of confinement he should be supervised 100% of the time. He should be wearing a floor cord. This simple device assures that he can always be immediately stopped with the cord when necessary until such time as he has learned to reliably respond to “come” and “stop” cues. This will be of paramount importance to preventing problems, teaching desirable responses and maintaining a safety history.

It is important for you to understand exactly what I mean by stopping. It is a THIRD WAY technique that when properly used, is incredibly effective.

Stopping is different than compulsive training regimens that require the dog to be corrected or punished for an undesirable response. THIRD WAY trainers completely avoid these tactics because they put a dog into a state of fear or suppression. In these emotional states, all a puppy is going to learn is how to escape the fear or avoid the suppression. The lesson learned is to avoid the person because the pup’s safety history with people has been compromised. It does not teach the canine to abandon the response forever. The response remains, the pup is just more careful about how and when it is performed! This generally creates worse problems rather than solving any problems.

It is also different than bribery or reward-induced response training programs that recommend just waiting until the pup abandons the behavior on his own. Neither of these tactics is utilized because THIRD WAY trainers believe corrections and punishment are unnecessary and detrimental to good guidance, and ignoring the dog is ineffective and creates problems.

THE THIRD WAY technique is for you to immediately stop the dog from continuing to do something that is inappropriate or undesirable. But, because your puppy’s safety history is of paramount importance, stopping is done as gently as you can and causes the dog the least amount of stress possible. It is NOT intended to suppress or hurt the dog or suppress the offending behavior. It is intended to prevent the response from being a reinforcing event for the dog.

Although stopping the dog may be considered an “aversive” or something that the dog may not find to his liking, the fact is that all aversives cannot be eliminated from dog/people interaction. So, although the dog may not want to stop doing what he is doing, there are two things that THIRD WAY trainers do to make this procedure different from compulsive or reward-induced training and much more effective than either.

First, this aversive action on your part is unlike the corrections and punishments utilized in compulsive training programs because our intent is very different than their intent. Ours is simply to stop the behavior. Their use of corrections or punishments such as using scary noises, causing physical pain or socially intimidating a dog to the point of trepidation are meant to suppress the dog’s normal responses so much that it discourages repetition of the response. It is my belief that none of these strategies will permanently curb a behavior and instead will create additional problems such as defensiveness. The dog will learn the circumstances under which he can be punished and how to avoid the punishment or punisher, not the behavior. Compulsive training also seriously compromises a dog’s safety history with people.

The intent of bribe-induced-response training programs is also different than yours will be as a THIRD WAY trainer. They will try to eliminate completely the use of “aversives” including the necessary action of simply stopping their dog. Instead they depend upon always having something to bribe their dog into offering the correct response. Or, if the person has nothing at the moment to use as a bribe, they depend upon their dog’s “benevolent” cooperation based on the fact that they have provided him with so many wonderful things in the past. These strategies will always fail.

The environment has a wealth of things that are more reinforcing than a person can ever be all of the time. So dog and owner become hopelessly dependent upon the presence of the bribe to get an appropriate response.

Depending on a dog’s benevolence is also a false path to success. A dog is absolutely incapable of acting in a benevolent way regardless of how good a person has treated him in the past. Dogs are perfect at being dogs and perfect dogs are self-satisfying creatures by nature. Their survival depends upon it! Therefore, ignoring the dog and hoping he will benevolently stop his inappropriate behavior is as ineffective as the suppression and punishment utilized by compulsive-based training programs. It does not influence the offending behavior. And eventually, when people become disappointed because a dog is not “cooperating” as expected, their own behavior changes and becomes inappropriate. It often results in them doing something that makes the dog feel unsafe in their presence.

Simply stopping the dog from performing an undesirable behavior will prevent that response from becoming a bad habit. And most importantly THE THIRD WAY’S stopping techniques neither overly arouses nor suppresses a dog. Therefore, you will immediately be able to teach a dog a response that is desirable. This is the most effective strategy there is! When your actions stop an undesirable response, taking the time to teach an appropriate response eliminates problems and promotes the pup’s ability to learn how you DO wish him to respond. A puppy that has just been stopped and not disciplined with correction or punishment will want to learn something new from you because he still feels safe with you. A puppy that has just been stopped rather than ignored does not have the ability to rehearse into habit a response that is undesirable.

For example, a pro-active guide would plan how they would manage the dog to stop and/or prevent inappropriate greeting behavior and teach him how to properly greet people. If the dog were very socially inclined, the dog would be wearing a leash and a floor cord whenever he could possibly meet a person. Thus prepared, you could successfully keep the dog safe and teach him appropriate behaviors. Mishaps such as the dog running into the street, or jumping up and excitedly nipping someone would be prevented. The dog could then easily learn that the “sit” position is the only one that will be rewarded with social contact.

It pays to explore what could happen to the dog if his guide would be unprepared and would not have a leash or floor cord on him. The dog could see a stranger and get emotionally out of control. He could run into the street and get hit by a car. He could get attacked by the person’s dog, or be struck if the person he approached was fearful. Or he could successfully get to the stranger and jump and mouth excitedly. If this stranger loved puppies and was accepting of the pup’s inappropriate overtures, the person would inadvertently reward these responses. The pup would then be reinforced for behaviors that are opposite of what you wanted. By the time you could stop his inappropriate greeting antics it would be too late to teach him the right way to greet people. This scenario need only be repeated a few times and the puppy will get into the habit of greeting people by getting into a very excited, emotional state and jumping on them and mouthing them. Now a very serious problem has been created. The puppy has learned to act in a manner that is irritating to the family and will be extremely difficult and time consuming to resolve. Being re-active creates problems that could easily have been prevented by being a PRO-ACTIVE GUIDE.

Pro-active guidance requires that an owner anticipate what responses he can expect from his particular puppy under specific circumstances. Armed with this knowledge, the pro-active guide manages the puppy’s activities so that inappropriate behavior is prevented or can immediately be stopped.

Third Pre-Caution: Establish the Ability to Prevent the Repetition Of An Unexpected And Inappropriate Behavior.

“IT happens!” “It” is that unexpected situation that allows the dog to respond in an inappropriate and undesirable way. A good Guide knows that the secret to success is to stop it as quickly (yet gently) as possible and then manage it so that it cannot ever be repeated again!

Repetition must be avoided because it results in two things. First, it teaches the puppy to “do it” until a person gets him or cues him to stop. Second, it allows that specific response to become a habit. Habitual behavior is very difficult to change. Attempts at changing habitual behavior results in an aggravated owner, a stressed dog and a diminished relationship and safety history.

The best strategy for a guide is to take the necessary preventative actions. When “IT happens” be sure IT never happens again!

Note from Paws-A-Tive Choice: This is very sound advice. Working with dogs that have already developed emotional and behavioral issues, these three pre-cautions are a “MUST DO” in order to help pets move beyond the problem issues, and work toward safer, more acceptable behaviors to the owners. In the majority of cases, if these pre-cautions were implemented early on, many of the problem behaviors wouldn’t occur.