Life is full of consequences. If we eat too much rich foods,
we might get sick. If we speed, we could get a ticket if the
highway patrol is around. If we don't pay our bills on time,
we get hit with late fees and our credit rating suffers. If
we are unkind to others, we have few friends. If we don't
study and do our homework, we won't pass into the next grade.
If we don't do our work, we may get fired.
Our Beagles, too, have consequences in their lives: one dog
trying to sneak a chewie away from the chewie queen may
end up being body slammed away from the coveted bone; going
into the laundry room & sniffing around gets a nosy Beagle
locked inside; eating gross things in the yard may result in
a gurgly tummy; jumping on the couch when the Couch Princess
is in residence will get you The Look and a curled lip.
In training for competition (or household manners), we do
need to provide consequences on occasion. But a smart,
observant trainer will find ways to get her point across
without resorting to physical or verbal corrections. Beagles
are intelligent and creative enough to get the message.
If you take out the leash and your Beagle goes nuts, put it
back, sit down on the couch and wait for peace and quiet.
Then try again. It may take several repetitions the first day
- and fewer the second day, and by the end of the week, your
Beagle will quiver in quiet, four on the floor anticipation.
When the dinner bell rings and the Beagles bark, its time
for a brief human break. Stop all dinner preparations and
open your mail, while the Beagles settle down. Assume that
"Beagle barking" is your cue to read the mail. If your
Beagle then jumps around while you are attempting to put his
dish down, ask for a sit. Slowly start to lean over to place
the dish on the floor. Every time daylight appears beneath
the Beagle butt and the floor, stand back up. Be patient.
Let your Beagle figure out that sit = dinner. Jumping up =
dinner goes away.
Time to go outside? A sit at the door causes it to open.
Doors never open without sits. If you have multiple dogs, you
must wait for multiple sits. Watching 3 sitting dogs give
the 4th bouncing dog the evil eye - "siddown you bozo, or
she won't open the door" - is something every multi dog
household should get to enjoy!
If your Beagle would rather hunt dust bunnies on the
training room floor, despite repeated reinforcement for paying
attention, perhaps its time for a short respite in her crate -
while you train Beagle #2. Sitting in a crate, watching
Beagle #2, 3 and/or #4 get all the goodies is torture for
everyone at my house.
While training stays, you hear "Beagle's up!". Return to
your dog and gently, softly, reposition her into the correct
stay posture - and then (with previous permission) give a
treat to the dog next to her who *is* staying put. The look
on your Beagle's face will be priceless.
Your Beagle loves to run agility, sometimes too much - and
creates his own courses. Often, the best consequence you can
provide is to pick him up and take him off the course. Better
yet, you have another dog to run.
You call "Snoopy, come!" and Snoopy looks up from the corner
of the backyard and decides he'd rather continue to eat rabbit
poop. That's a great time to walk out there with a really
good treat that you and your dog can eat - and eat it in front
of your dog. "Oh, Snoop, look what you could have had!"
All these scenarios involve the use of 'negative punishment'
as defined by operant conditioning: you take away (the
negative part) the opportunity of a reward or something good,
which decreases a behavior. In learning theory terms,
punishment is anything that decreases a behavior;
reinforcement is anything that increases a behavior. "Dog
friendly" training attempts to use primarily R+ (positive
reinforcement) with P- (negative punishment) as a way to
provide consequences when needed.
The truth is we use physical 'corrections' on dogs because
we can. Most dogs won't come up the leash at their trainers,
even if it is deserved. Marine mammal trainers can't
physically 'correct' their trainees - and if they could, who
would be foolish enough to try that on a killer whale? Just
because we can do it, does not make it the way to train or
proof our dogs. The relationship suffers, the dog stresses
and his work can deteriorate.
I have seen many dogs who work out of fear of corrections -
and I agree with French philosopher and writer Albert Camus
who said: "Nothing is more despicable than respect based on
Training dogs is communicating with them. Reward what you
like. Ignore what you can safely ignore. Redirect
behaviors. Find a thinking way to provide a consequence for
your dog's 'bad' behavior. Remember that the dog isn't 'bad'
- its the behavior you don't like.
Behaviors can be changed!