Hanging On to Good Behaviour

Posted on 03/26/09 15 Comments

I have been on the road this time exactly one week and already I am seeing some “CRAP” from my dogs. Crap is a word that I have often used while teaching if I don’t like what my students are rewarding. “. . .well that was crap” is something I have said over and over. If you have watched my Success with One Jump you will have seen the out-takes at the end of me using the word over and over. Yes it means; poop, caa-caa, manure, shite, turdaceousness or fecal matter. I have said this so often that Lynda, one of my instructors, came up with an acronym for it.


R= Rewarding



Crap, if you continually reward ambiguous performances in your dog you will get crap behaviour. No way around it, it will never be worthwhile. You may not even realize you are rewarding the behaviour. Like the dog that runs aggressively up and down the yard with the neighbour’s dog on the other side of the fence. That is self-rewarding crap, so your role in the development of that crap may not be as obvious, but the responsibility for you allowing it to happen is still yours. I have been playing the same roll this week in my own dog’s new “Crap”.  My dogs have always been very quiet in their crates or on a table while I work another dog and also while I teach seminars. Lately Encore and Feature have gotten more vocal. I did see this start in Minnesota so I can’t say it has come on all of a sudden, but it has gotten progressively worst.  In the last 2 days Feature has even decided she would occasionally  leave her table to go sniffing while I am teaching. CRAP!  So when they bark, or leave the table I have been giving them a time out, locking the offender in a crate or removing her from the building. N-i-c-e, lets just punish something that you should have been using reinforcement to prevent Susan! So yesterday afternoon I went on the attack. I experimented with ways to stop what I didn’t like by using reinforcement to my advantage,  while not interferring too much with my teaching. So rather than have Feature just hang on the table while I watch handling, I had her lie by the chair I was using. Hmmm, quiet, yet creeping around on her down, not so good. So I took off my shoe and had her put her right paw on it. Putting her right paw on my shoe is a behaviour I shaped a while ago, why? I don’t know, but it came in handy to give her a boundary to observe. That worked for the last couple of hours but I need to alter things because I can see her already changing the criteria of her right paw on my shoe behaviour. I don’t want to end up with very naughty seminar dogs after this trip so I have got to get on it, back to the drawing board today! It is very much like contacts in a trial. You have a wonderful performance at home but all behaviour does drift, and if don’t notice it, after a few trials or years of trials “all of a sudden” you are left with something that does not at all resemble what you started with when you first trained the contact behaviour at home. I love my well behaved dogs and I don’t want to lose that while teaching!

I am very grateful that God gave me a nudge to help me realize the crap (don’t know if He would use that word) that was beginning with my dogs and how I needed to come up with a new plan of reinforcement to alter what I don’t like.


  1. Kristin says:
    Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 10:55pm

    Can I ask what you are doing about it and if it is working? This problem is huge with my BC…she crates in the car even for class because she can’t be quiet. We have a 7 month Terv puppy who is starting to do it too and I want to stop him from developing that habit of crate screaming/ barking. I’ve never let him out while being noisy.


  2. Visnja Deci says:
    Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 10:21pm

    Hi Susan,
    just read your CRAP stuff. For me it is not funny, because recently I have same problem. My dogs were never vocal, never encourage to bark. Even both of them runs agility without barking! Few months ago I lost my old dog and now younger one start with whining sound when left somewhere to wait 🙁 What I noticed and am quite sure about is that whenever she produced sound there is somebody who will look at her or even tell something like: Oh, you poor soul, left here all alone etc. She was rewarded that way by strangers so many times… Maybe, that is what happend to your dogs, getting rewarded by people around you?
    See you in Austria,


  3. Trudie says:
    Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 11:39am

    Some feedback for you:

    “Backchaining…” “table work…” “landmarks in walking…” “head halters…” “who’s shaping…”
    just a few of the daily tips I’ve especially appreciated.

    I think “tip of the day” is a great idea.

    I suspect many others will join me in hoping tips could continue past #31!


  4. Theresa Litourneau says:
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 9:35pm

    Great post.
    I would say one of the reeeaally good things I took from the foundation seminar last saturday is all this CRAP. I realized that not only is my life full of CRAP,but my training is full of crap also. My criteria ???? What criteria ??
    I am now setting criteria on almost everything I’m doing…. including training STella.
    Thanks Susan for a lesson where I least expected it !!


  5. Dog Lover says:
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 6:09pm

    thanks for the website. i stummbled upon it but im going to visit for info on training.


  6. Diana Krause says:
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 3:39pm

    I love this acronym. It works for how things are going with raising my kids too. Thanks for the laugh. Diana


  7. Jodi says:
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:48am

    What it sounds like you need is an assistant who can reward your dogs for good behaviour when you travel and feed you nice high fiber/high protein vegan snacks so you don’t get too weak from teaching (or grumpy). I know just the gal for the job!!!
    I brought you a Cape Seed bread but Peppy ate it in the car. “It’s yer choice” “Up Yours” she says.


  8. AJ Carrington says:
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:42am

    An aside on Lynda coming up with the acronym for CRAP. On observing me preparing for some crap to happen with my dog at a recent workshop, she offered this “Lynda-ism”: You are the mistress of your own crap.

    Appropriate advice given today’s blog topic!


  9. Lynda says:
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:34am

    Always entertaining to keep up with you on your blog… I Laughed out loud at work when I read this one… Just on a side note… when I was training tables yesterday with Favor – and I got CRAP – I gave the rewards to “MISSY D” who was out in the school with Penny and I – living it up!

    Performance PEAKED! Favor – no like sharing her cookies with Missy D!

    Everyone’s good at the ranch!

    Lynda (who was nose targeting with Favor one evening as Susan left the building and casually walked by and said…CRAP… hence the acronym 🙂


  10. L says:
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 9:21am

    Susan I wanted to mention how much I (and my dogs) are benifiting from your blog. My attitude towards working with my girls has changed ever so slightly, and it’s making a huge difference. I’m shaping them more often and using rewards way better. Every time I play with them I seem to have more of a purpose in what I’m doing, and it’s paying off big time. I’ve been focusing more on the small stuff, not so much the “sexy” agility and I can’t believe the change when we get to run a course. Thanks again for your wonderful insights on dog training.


  11. Sue says:
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 9:04am

    I was at your seminar in Minnesota and if I never become good at agility, my one wish is that I become a good enough trainer to have dogs as well behaved and as much fun as yours are to watch.


  12. Gail says:
    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 8:49am

    LOL…I needed the laugh this morning. I LOVE Lynda’s acronym! I’ll remember that now, just like I do DASH!

    I also like the fact that you can see the behavior & know when it’s starting to vary from what you want. You use very creative ideas on how to work with the girlies 🙂

    I’ve got the fence fighting thing going on right now with Speedy. So far, I’ve been rewarding with food when he comes back when I call. I try to time it to call as SOON as I see the other dogs are out of their door. The sooner I can get him back to me, the better my chances of keeping him there & rewarding him for making the right choice. It’s really just a “It’s yer choice” game for him & he’s doing pretty darn good at it 🙂

    I’ve also started adding my daily thanks. Great idea for positive motivation, Susan!

    I’m thankful that my neighbors tolerate me using their dogs (inadverntly) to train mine!


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