Training Talk: Just What Are You Training?

One of the things that I observe on a daily basis is how people fail to realize that their behavior and reactions are training their animals each and every moment.

In some cases the animals are so hyper-responsive that they reinforce on such subtle things as eye contact.

In the case of jumping dogs, many people will push an animal down when it jumps, scold the animal, and stare intensely at it during all these actions.

If the animal does not cease the behavior (which is more common then you would think) it is probably getting reinforced for the behavior.


Well, humans tend to lump everything into positive or negative BUT this does not mean that the animal interprets the chain of actions in the same manner.

Many jumping dogs find that they are getting touched (pushing the animal down), attention (long periods of eye contact), and find the whole communication part to be another type of attention as well.

This can be pretty reinforcing for an animal that has been alone for most of the day.

The other problem is that some pet parents and visitors feel that this type of behavior is normal.


It isn’t normal for a dog to jump if they learn that other behaviors are more desirable or if they get more attention from other behaviors.

The easiest way to stop jumping is to replace it with an incompatible behavior or a replacement behavior–such as sit.

I’ll have some examples of this in the future but the important thing for pet people to understand is that if you don’t see an undesirable behavior disappearing–you may be reinforcing it by accident!

Every thing you do in your daily routine is either reinforcing or extinguishing a behavior in your pets.

Learning to identify what actions you take can help you get better behavior from your pets.

But the real perk is to learn how to read what your animal is communicating to you and what it is responding to.

If you want to learn more about this I have an assignment in the free audio class available to those who subscribe to the newsletter.

The class is just under an hour and if you sign up (via the link in the upper right of the page), I’d be interested in hearing how the assignment works for you and what you learned.

Take a moment and leave your comment after a week of observing your animals per the assignment.

Training Talk: Sibling Dogs Good or Bad Idea?

Many people like to have more than one dog but is it a good idea to have sibling dogs?

That depends, usually if the dogs are related you will encounter the issue where they are bonded stronger with each other than they will be to you.

Getting two dogs that are not related is a better idea (see my two students to the right–who are a good match).

BUT if you are having behavior problems with one–the odds are that the other might give you trouble by picking up those bad traits from the first–and then you have double trouble.

Some time ago I received a call from a woman who had three pups who needed training.

In our preliminary conversation I discovered that they were all from the same litter and so I said…

“Can I ask you a personal question?”


“What made you decide to adopt three pups at a time? Are you insane?”

Once the client stopped laughing she booked the appointment.

Although I was joking, it was also a serious question because she tripled her work load and also had to deal with triple the challenges presented by a new puppy–because she had three different temperaments AND they were strongly bonded with each other.

I encourage people NOT to get pups from the same litter.


Some of you might remember the delinquents that were sent to boot camp with me in 2007.

The duo was strongly bonded and so bounced off of each other–creating a canine cyclone unless they were separated.

Normally I take dogs in for about two weeks but these pups needed a whole month. They did well but their bonding made the owners feel left out. It was something that was never going to change–good behavior or not.

If you are firmly set on getting two pups–make sure you get them from different sources–and I’d suggest getting one at a time.

Also, it is often easier to add an animal of the opposite gender to the household that already contains a pet.

No matter what your choice, be sure to also take the time to properly integrate an animal.

The pros?

Two dogs can provide companionship for each other.

Plus, it is always fun to have a doggie duo.

But please carefully consider whether or not to add another dog to your household BEFORE you do it.

Make sure you are ready and be sure you existing pet is ready…and remember, don’t fall for those cute furry faces and bring home two pups from the same litter…it may be something you regret.