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The 3 P’s: Patience, Progressive Phases & Positive Reinforcement

They say, "Rome wasn't built in a day," but have you ever heard, "Fido wasn't trained in a day?"  Probably not. But that sentiment should be said, heard, repeated and then repeated some more.  It is THAT important to a behavioral plan.  How can patience impact the work we do with our dogs?  Well because it comes into play in almost all of our interactions with our dogs.  From puppyhood, to fear reactions, to obedience type training, to walks and to our energy and tone in our body language and interactions with our dogs.

"Patience is not passive, on the contrary, it is concentrated strength." - Bruce Lee

"Patience is not passive, on the contrary, it is concentrated strength."  Being patient does not come easy to many people.  If it does come easy to you, then USE IT!  If you struggle with feeling patient with your dog or even with yourself as your dog's teacher then I suggest creating small progressive phases to your behavioral work.  This means that instead of tackling loose leash walking outside while your dog is pulling; ask yourself how can you make your end goal (walking beside you) achievable in small doses?  Progressive phases with leash pulling as the example would look like practicing inside on return, practicing in the backyard and practicing even without a leash inside and in the backyard on proper body placement.  Those are concrete goals that can be built on and progressive in nature because you can build from each skill set to your end goal.  And the overarching theme throught that process is again patience to understand you and your dog are both beginners.  To allow for mistakes, to allow for getting in a rhythm with learning and listening and timing.  Patience and progressive phases are a crucial part of being successful at actually seeing your dog's behavior change.

"Small progress is still progress and if there is no struggle, there is no progress" -Fredrick Douglass

I do hope by now that positive reinforcement is not a foreign concept to most people.  But if it is that is ok too!  Essentially, leaving out the scientific lingo, positive reinforcement is a scientific behavioral principle that says dog's are likely to repeat behavior that is reinforced.  I definitely want people to welcome this philosophy.  It works, it is humane, it is effective, it is backed by science and it is a way to strenthen your relationship with your dog.  I challenge everyone reading this blog to a call of action:  choose one behavior your dog struggles with (jumping, leash pulling, digging).  And then once that behavior is identified ask your self one simple question, "What do I want my dog to do instead?"  Let us take jumping for instance.  It is not conducive to learning to just say I want my dog to stop jumping, that is essentially just saying, "No!" and "no" is a human word.  Dogs may learn the tone and your body language when you say it but you are never teaching your dog what you want them to do instead (a replacement behavior).  Using positive reinforcement we can reward them when all four paws are on the ground by sprinkling treats on the floor to help motivate them to forage for those treats; this becomes reinforcing when done overtime because your dog learns that good things happen when they are grounded.

"The animal is NEVER wrong. You get what you reinforce. All behavior has function, including undesirable behavior. The question is NOT, 'Why is the animal behaving this way?' But rather, 'What is reinforcing this behavior?' -Susan Friedman, Ph.D.

Because behavior is communicative and funtional at its core, The 3 P's: Patience, Progressive phases and Positive reinforcement respect the animal's natural tendency to repeat behaviors that work for them.  It is our job to be kind, calm and patient enough to recognize where and what our dog's are telling us with their behavior and help them make adjustments along the way to reinforce the behaviors that are both enjoyable for the dog and desirable in the human world.

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