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First, a pop quiz!

1. Your wild and crazy puppy, Sophie, has settled down in her bed, finally giving you the chance to crack open515jiSRVCrL._SL500_AA300_ Edie Jarolim’s Am I Boring My Dog?which you have been dying to read. You

a) Ignore her.
b) Wake her up to be sure she’s really just sleeping and not in a coma.
c) Slip her a liver bit and quietly coo, “What a gooooood girl.”

2. You’re out for an off-leash walk with Chester. Every once in a while he bounds back to you, kinda like he’s ‘checking in.’ You

a) Don’t notice because you’re playing Bejeweled on your iPhone as you shuffle along.
b) Shoo him away because he bumped into you.
c) Thank Chester for checking in and give him the liver bit you’re carrying in your hand.

3. You’re taking Lacey for a leash walk around the neighborhood, which you hate to do because she pulls on her leash. For a moment Lacey walks next to you on a slack leash. Youimages-5

a) Trip over the leash.
b) Pull Lacey’s leash taut because that’s what you’ve seen on TV.
c) Say, “Goooood giiiirrrrl!” and give Lacy a piece of bison jerky from the treat pouch you’re carrying.

Answer key:

     If you answered ‘a’ or’ b’ more than once—-Turn off the TV! Kick your cell phone under the bed! Pay attention to your dog! And, read the rest of this post!

     If you answered ‘c’ every time—-Skip the rest of this post and keep on committing random acts of positive reinforcement!

     Sometimes our dogs just do wonderful things. They surprise us with their goodness. Sometimes when we’re on an off-leash hike, Sadie sidles next to me and we walk along together. If we could walk hand-in-paw, we would. That’s how sweet it feels. Sometimes my not-so-cuddly girl lays her head on my knee (swoon).

Sadie on knee_2

     One of the best lessons reward-based dog training has taught me is to pay attention! Be vigilant for unexpected displays of welcome behavior—no matter how small! And don’t miss the opportunity to positively reinforce them. Immediately and generously. Yes, even if it means keeping treats handy, assuming your dog is into treats. Not all are. Some love an ear scritch and praise. Whatever makes your dog tail waggin’ happy.

     And, now for a word of caution: This is not as easy as it sounds. Think about it. What do we really pay attention to whether with our dogs, our kids, our mates, or whoever? We typically attend to what’s wrong. Like images-6predator drones our minds seem to naturally seek out and lock onto the dirty dishes Sally promised to clean up and didn’t, or Samson barking at who knows what.

     Instead, practice this: Ignore that stuff—the dishes, the barking. I know. It’s not easy when there is so much wrong in the world and it feels like it’s all on your shoulders! It’s not fair. You’re not Atlas after all.

     Rather, try this: Sally doesn’t clean up the spaghetti-encrusted dishes, but she does wipe the table! “Hey, Sally, thanks for cleaning the table!”

     Samson has to take a breather, no dog barks all the time unless he’s truly distressed, and even then, sooner or later he’ll tire out. “Goooood booooy! Here’s a bite of your favorite salmon jerky.”

     Remember: Behavior—ours, our dog’s, and everyone else’s–is driven by it’s consequences. Behavior that’s positively reinforcedrewarded—is more likely to be repeated. So brighten your day, get out there and commit random acts of positive reinforcement. You’ll be glad you did, and your dog will love you for it.

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9 Responses to “Commit Random Acts of Positive Reinforcement!”

  1. Edie says:

    Thanks for this, Deborah. I love the idea of a dog being reinforced for letting the owner read Am I Boring My Dog?

  2. […] Boulder Dog » Blog Archive » Commit Random Acts of Positive Reinforcement! […]

  3. Oh! I love this and if I steal a pop quiz positive idea that is extreme flatttery right?? When I get around to it, I will give you (lots) of credit. Nice blog post!

    • Of course! Take! Take! I’m delighted you liked the post and appreciate the pop quiz. (Just between you and me, I’m not my intended humor tickled many funnybones :-)

      I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  4. Great blog very informative and well written.

  5. Janet Finlay says:

    Just seen this recommended on Twitter and have passed it on myself. Great post and really important message – it is so easy not to see the good stuff! Thanks.

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