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Let Freedom Ring With Your Dog's Behavior

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By   |   09 Jul 2019

Do you feel like you are constantly barking out orders to your dog? OFF the furniture, STOP JUMPING on people, OUT of the garbage, SIT so I can put your leash on, QUIT biting!

Is there a better way? Can your dog learn to make its own better choices and you reduce the time dedicated to managing every move your dog makes? Teaching your dog to actually make positive choices is called FREE BEHAVIOR . The dog freely chooses behaviors that you have consistently rewarded; therefore, the dog gravitates to those behaviors more frequently on its own.

The alternative to free behavior is traditional obedience—high-management, controlled behavior. You have to be involved and continually guide or redirect your dog’s choices. This is a very high-maintenance way to live with your dog.


Freedom from time spent dealing with your dog’s bad choices sounds like a huge relief, right? Just picture spending more quality time enjoying your dog and having him be a low-maintenance member of your family.

At Full House Dog Training, we teach our clients how to develop free behavior using a system similar to teaching a child to develop the positive habit of brushing her teeth each day. Establishing goals and teaching the pattern to help achieve that goal, like putting toothpaste on a brush and singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat in your head to brush long enough, helps begin a child’s training for proper brushing. Positive reinforcement through praise and/or rewards given for brushing teeth along with support to consistently follow the pattern will, in turn, foster independence in the child to freely make the decision brush. The final step, to cement the lesson of freely making the choice and taking action to get teeth sparkling clean, you increase the duration in reward distribution. In other words, praise or reward the child for brushing on her own after two or three days of successful brushing, then after a week or a month. Before long, that teeth-brushing habit becomes a regular part of each day.


As an adult, our parents no longer call and remind us to brush our teeth. And typically, if asked, adults would most likely assume they did brush their teeth even though they may not distinctly remember doing it. Why? Because it is an ingrained positive habit that no longer requires much thought to insure completion; it has become an auto-response. This is exactly how we want our dog to respond in his world.

So, let’s teach your dog how to brush his own teeth... so to speak Simply use the same six steps to develop positive habits in your dog.

1.    ESTABLISH A GOALYou, as the dog’s owner, must establish a goal, so it is clear for the dog how it will earn a reward. Let’s use jumping on you as our behavior we want to change for the dog. (The goal is for the dog to keep its feet on the ground when it gets excited to see you.)

2. TEACH THE PATTERN: Your role in building a new habit is to teach the dog the individual steps in the pattern that lead to achieving the final goal. (Ex: Dog runs to greet you. Dog keeps feet on the ground. You mark the positive behavior with “Yes,” and reward the dog with high-value food for the correct choice.)

3. REWARD/REMIND FOR CORRECT BEHAVIOR : After the pattern is accomplished, the dog earns a reward as a communication that the pattern was correctly executed. I like to start using food as a reward when teaching a new behavior. The value of the food—anything from kibble to high-value food such as cheese, or a food log such as Happy Howie’s like we use—is important to gauge so we get the proper motivation depending on the intensity of the dog’s emotion and the environment surrounding the experience. Sometimes we have to remind or correct the dog for not properly following the established pattern. Such is the case with jumping. If the dog jumps instead of keeping its feet on the floor, we have to use a punishment to communicate that this choice will not be rewarded. For jumping, I usually use a squirt bottle with ¼ white vinegar and ¾ water as a minimum ratio. For larger dogs with more intense emotions driving their behaviors, its safe and most effective to use 100% vinegar. The key is not just using the squirt bottle to communication you don’t want the dog to jump. You need to reward the dog once the correct behavior of the dog putting its feet on the ground. The dog needs to know the correct behavior you desire, not just what you don’t want.

4.  CONSISTENTLY FOLLOW THE PATTERNThis reward/remind sequence MUST be executed moment by moment so the outcomes are consistent each time the dog makes a particular choice. Slowly the dog recognizes what choice activates the reward.

5.  BUILD INDEPENDENCEYou can start weening your reminders as the dog takes more accountability for the executing the pattern on its own.

6.  ADD DURATION IN REWARD DISTRIBUTIONOver time, the dog should increase the effort that needs to be put forth to receive a reward. By adding duration to the behavior of keeping its feet on the ground, you step away from the reward process. These steps facilitates a decrease in your efforts while the dog continues to freely put in more of the work to achieve the final goal.

Dog’s thrive in a world of boundaries in which they understand your expectations. As a team, make sure your expectations match your dog’s skill level in any given environment. Just because your dog is successful at a skill in the house doesn’t mean it will work at the park, so make sure you are fair in your expectations with the dog’s success in mind! Until your dog’s skills are successful in higher distraction environments, you need to execute the reward process described above. If you are punishing extensively in a new environment, the dog has far exceeded its ability level and should simply be removed from the environment so they don’t fail and don’t practice bad behaviors.


Full House Dog Training focuses on developing free behavior in your dog so you can enjoy your dog instead of constantly managing its behavior.  Reach out and let us know how we can help guide you in this process so you can truly enjoy your dog in all the ways you’ve always dreamed!




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