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Don’t Forget to Laugh!

Posted on 03/12/12 20 Comments

There have been some great reports written on my last blogpost after the last newsletter. I am happy to see so many of you are starting to exam the triggers your dogs have have

Swagger "working it" with his toy while I pound away at my computer today.

that prompt responses from you. I just want this to be clear;

Susan Garrett’s dogs do posses triggers that will prompt her behaviour.

My dogs attempt to trigger many responses from me on an ongoing basis. The ones that work they will keep the ones that don’t work will fade away. The lack of reinforcement will cause the dog to stop trying.  There are some triggers that I do like to see and those will be reinforced! The point I was getting at in my recent newsletter and last blog is that you should become aware of those triggers and be selective about the ones you will keep.

For example we have two water bowls in our house. Swagger, my youngster only likes to drink from one of them. So when that one happens to be empty he will put his paw in it and drag it around the kitchen. Someone will get up and fill it for him. I am happy that he will let me know when the bowl is empty, that is a trigger that I will keep responding to with him.

On the other hand he also likes to take toys and place them on my lap, at first I would just put the toy back on the floor, but I quickly realized that game was still good for Swagger as the “dropping the toy in my lap behaviour” got stronger. Once I recognized what was happening I started to take the toy and place it on my desk, ending the possibility of reinforcement for Swagger. Now rather than giving up the toy to me Swagger will sit very near by holding it in his mouth giving me various looks and poses. Often the cuteness of what he is doing will get me and I will laugh and stop my work to play with him. Yes this trigger does live on but it is one I can ignore much easier than the toy in my lap. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the creativity of “naughty.” Provided you keep a handle on it and you know what is happening and you balance it with what you want all is good.

The science of dog training is important, I never allow that to be far from my mind but please don’t allow the science of “why” take away all of the joy you have when you train and live with your dog. Being aware of what is going on is the first step, then gradually replace those you don’t like with those you do. I can’t tell you how many times a day I laugh out loud because of something one of my dogs do, please don’t ever lose that.

Tomorrow’s newsletter is going to focus on you building in positive triggers of your own (turning the tables on these clever dogs:)).

Today I am grateful for every dog that ever cracked me up.


  1. Ben says:
    Monday, August 10, 2015 at 10:39am

    Hey Susan, great post!

    Most behaviour problems are really solved that easily, it’s amazing. Once you help your dog understand what’s ok and what’s not, everything becomes so much easier – but the journey is definitely both fun and exhausting.

    Really like your positive attitude on this!


  2. Paul @ German Shepherd Training Academy says:
    Friday, June 19, 2015 at 7:22pm

    Hi Susan,

    This post was great! I was absolutely smiling for most parts of reading this post! That’s really cute of Swagger!

    I think you bring up an important point in that understanding the science of dog training is important………….but more importantly, everyone should have fun with dog training. Dog training should NEVER be viewed as a burden!



  3. Teresa K says:
    Monday, March 19, 2012 at 10:49pm

    Responding to your dog’s triggers is really responding to your dog trying to communicate with you. Agree; there are some responses that lead to undesirable habits, and can create a demanding, “rude” dog. This exercise has been great in making me aware of exactly where, what and when the triggers are really coming from!

    For the most part I try as much as possible to respond to these attempts to communicate. I feel the payoff is a closer and more trusting relationship overall.

    So unless it is something that will lead to obnoxious or problem behavior down the road, I will usually give out the pets (after I ask for a behavior or two), open the gate to the “good” yard (after a group sit and release), etc etc etc.

    Yes, the dog is starting the conversation, but ultimately our relationship is strengthened and trust is being built.


  4. Melinda Faubel says:
    Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 6:32pm

    And I forgot – the “just having fun” part. I screwed that up when I was first “training” – but in the last couple of months have really focused on just getting on the floor with her a couple times a day and wrestling and playing and it’s really helped us to enjoy eachother as companions instead of a contract relationship.


  5. Melinda Faubel says:
    Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 6:30pm

    So glad you are writing about this, as I’ve often felt like I was “doing it wrong” by allowing my dog to have triggers like you describe. BUT – by allowing some triggers, I feel like it’s improving her focus on ME. Soemthing rather important since she’s a VERY independant Brittany who’s normal “MO” is to do something off by herself that amuses her. By responding to her when she “bugs” me, I’m rewarding her for seeking ME when she’s bored – not the random thing in the next room. At some point I’ll probably cut back on the “naughtiness” I allow – but right now I think it’s important for my independent non/toy motivated dog to learn that by bugging me and repeatadly throwing a toy in my lap and or doing growling play bows in front of me results in some fun sometimes. I want her to SEEK me out.

    She came “pre” installed with 1 behavior I really like. When she needs to go outside in the back yard, she sits at the door and does one swipe with her paw that I can hear across the house. Just once, and with not enough force to leave marks. For a couple of weeks I left her water source outside on the porch to reinforce the behavior of alerting me means she got to go inside and it really worked. Obviously this is a trigger that could have TOTALLY backfired into property damage, but at least for this dog, it’s continued to be fine.


  6. Esther says:
    Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 6:44am

    Love the waterbowl behaviour. Ours has a waterbowl, but he likes water from a running tab 10 times better. So when he’s thirsty he will go to the bathroom and wait patiently beside the “bidet” for us to open the tab. He shaped us well, when we notice the dog missing we figured out he must be in the bathroom waiting for a fresh drink. When it takes too long, he’ll come back and look at us as if to say “hey guys, didn’t you notice I’m waiting for my fresh drink”. I love this behaviour and it doesn’t bother me so it’s a keeper in our house. He will drink from a bowl when he’s really thirsty and we’re not reacting.
    Will keep the fun part!


  7. Mary Lou says:
    Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 12:57am

    Hi Susan, happy you touched on the behaviours of going to the door for a potty request and putting toys in your lap. My dogs do both those things and after reading the email I was kind of second guessing my response. Thanks for making this clear.


  8. Heidi says:
    Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 8:01pm

    Thanks for clarifying, I was wondering about that exactly. This is very very interesting stuff, thank you for sharing, Susan!


  9. Evie says:
    Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 6:48pm

    After two days of recordkeeping about my reinforcing my dogs, I am smiling double time, once cause I DID do the statistics! and second cause I realized how many times I just smile at my dogs, talk to them etc.
    I also realized that they have taken over some of the stuff around the house … they trained me well!
    we are having a blast !! and even more so now that I look a bit closer!
    We sure are having fun every day !!
    I love Do-Land !!


  10. Carol Renton says:
    Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 12:20pm

    I was so happy to read this follow up blog. My 10 month old puppy does bring me toys, on occasion, to throw for him. He is the first dog I’ve had that does this and I love it about him. After reading the Trigger blog I was almost feeling guilty that I do play when he initiates the game. But, then he also plays when I initiate, so it’s a good balance for me. I take away from this that reinforcement triggers can be both good and not good depending on what fits into your own lifestyle. Correct?


  11. Lauren says:
    Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 10:00am

    Yes, after 24 hours of conscious observation, there is no doubt my dogs are better at shaping me than I am them. Much better. They love attention, and I also love some of what they do to get attention (they keep me laughing), but not all (we have some training struggles). You have said it is all about balance- and I’m looking forward to reading about how I can get our training back in balance.


  12. Debra Jones says:
    Monday, March 12, 2012 at 7:25pm

    I have to admit that many times the awesome, love pouring out of my dog’s eyes and the prick of her ears as she is looking at me holding the stuffed ferret…tail slowly wagging, enticing me to play….yes, I’ve succumbed many times.


    • Gabi says:
      Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 6:28am

      just sweet!


  13. Phil says:
    Monday, March 12, 2012 at 6:57pm

    I think what you say here about science is true, and the “why” is important, but the response that our “scientific dogs” elicit from us must at times amuse them as they make their choices in how they will shape and train us to their needs, wants and persoality.

    Me I am greatful for the ongoing opertunity to inteact with my four legged friends today. To train and be trained


  14. Jane Danby says:
    Monday, March 12, 2012 at 4:00pm

    Naughty but nice, like when we have one of those ‘should be ignored’ cream cakes…


  15. Mikey says:
    Monday, March 12, 2012 at 1:35pm

    What do you do when every possible item has been brought and placed on the desk. Get a bigger desk? That’s what I want to know. 🙂


  16. Melissa Davis says:
    Monday, March 12, 2012 at 12:24pm

    LOVE this.


  17. Kim says:
    Monday, March 12, 2012 at 11:46am

    ‘Sometimes you just have to enjoy the creativity of “naughty.” ‘

    You should put that on a tile, that is one killer quote.


    • Jane says:
      Monday, March 12, 2012 at 5:11pm



    • Sarah Kevin says:
      Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 6:46pm

      or t-shirt


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