Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dog training tips: Dealing with sneaky, cheating, not-quite-right behaviors

Sinead the Boston terrier knows how to lie down
Sinead the Boston terrier knows all about the "down" command. I have proof! Here she is executing the command to perfection. Her chest, elbows and hips are all touching the floor, and she's looking to me to tell her what to do next. That's a perfect response to the command.

Trouble is, she often throws down responses that are close, but not quite equal to, the command I've given her.

For example, when I tell her to lie down, she sometimes does this.

Cheating Boston terrier will not lie down on command

She isn't quite sitting, as her paws are all stretched out. But she's not (technically) lying down, either. Her chest is nowhere near the floor. She prefers this position as she can pop out of it a little faster.

When she assumes this position, she often refuses to admit that she's doing the command improperly. Here's a pretty common response to my command for her to try this move again.

Boston terrier will not lie down on command
"Who, me? You must be talking to the Boston over there, right?"
She looks around, as though there's someone else that isn't handling things as I'd like. If I turn to look, she pops right up. (Yes, I've fallen for it. I'm a sucker.)

So what's the right thing to do here?

When Sinead was new to training, I'd allow her to get a treat for a nearly-down. She was learning, and I needed to shape the behavior. But now that I know she knows what the command is all about, her cheating days should be over.

Since I have Liam the pug, the solution is pretty simple. If he does the command properly (which he is doing here, and holding admirably, I might add), I can give him a treat and give her nothing. These dogs are pretty darn jealous and competitive. If she learns that he gets treats when he listens, she might be more willing to do the same to get the same benefit.

But if she won't comply, I end the training on that particular command. The more I repeat a word that she isn't responding to, the less that word will mean to her. Plus, training should be fun and exciting. When I'm saying the same things over and over and she doesn't feel like listening, no one is enjoying the time. I think we both have better things to do.

So how about you? Do you have cheating dogs at home? What do you do in order to deal with the behavior?

1 comment:

  1. Yup we have cheaters at my house too!
    Ziva gets a bit of a break sometimes because of her previous knee injury so sometimes I don't push the issue. But the boys have no excuse, if I ask for a down I wait them out before treating them. I try to not repeat myself but sometimes I'll say it a second time and use a hand signal as well.