Thursday, April 15, 2010


I am really getting an appreciation for the subtleties of dog training. After reading Control Unleashed (Leslie McDevitt's absolute gem of a training book) and in class with Michelle Mange, my brilliant mentor with Right Start Maryland and Your Dog's Friend, I realized that to get Fozzie to mellow out, I need to give him a reward that's worth more to him than just these cheesy bits! What's the most rewarding thing to him? Going wild! So what should be his reward for not going wild? Legalized going wild!

There is a great handout on impulse control at, so I won't belabor it here; the basic idea is that for dogs who really want to play, they get to play only after they relax and take a break. So with Fozzie, throw a ball, do some push ups, pet him like crazy, rile him up a bit (I'm not doing tug of war with him because it's too stimulating; tug of war would be a good choice for dogs who enjoy it but don't get too into it), then disengage. Look away, take the ball away, stop playing until Fozzie sits and looks at me calmly. May take a while, but ignore him til it happens. Then--start again! Go wild, take a break, go wild, take a break. The Premack Principle--using something pup really wants to do as a reward for doing something he's less psyched to do.

Necessity breeds creativity, and Fozzie is the best teacher ever.

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