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.

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  1. Training can be complicated for people and it is always a good idea to get a reputable trainer to work with one on one for advice. There are many good training tools and if used correctly I think they can be used successfully. I think that shock collars have there place in hunting dogs and for people that are armed with the right information on how to use them. Citronella bark collars can also be a great option for that incessive barker.

  2. @Julie: Thanks for commenting again. While I appreciate your opinion I believe that there are better ways to train than with shock. Antiquated techniques still are popular but there are other more effective ways to train these days.