One of the best pieces of dog training advice you’ll ever hear - help your dog to understand what you want them to do or how you want them to act rather than waiting for them to perform an unwanted behaviour that you then need to undo. In other words, be proactive with your training. Think about it, what’s the point in waiting when you could offer some guidance and reinforcement to help them make decisions and choices that make everyone happy.
Having said that, it is inevitable that at some point your dog is going to exhibit an unwanted or undesirable behaviour. And, when you are faced with them demonstrating a behaviour that you don’t want them to do again, give them an alternative incompatible behaviour and reinforce it, so that it can become their first choice.
As everyone knows, dogs will do what works or what they think will work for them so whenever possible make sure that what works is something that you are happy with them doing too!
Problem: New wooden doors being installed and no doggy door in our house meant that we wanted to give Evie an option to let us know when she wanted to go outside that didn’t involve scratching at and damaging the new doors
Solution: Get her to ring a bell instead!!
We began the process even before the new doors arrived by getting her used to the bell and confident enough to go and investigate it, by marking and rewarding her for doing so.
Set up some training scenarios
Putting the bell on the floor in the area in front of the door meant she had to go past it to get to the back door, when she went past she investigated it and even though it didn’t actually ring, we still marked, rewarded and opened the doors to let her out.
Ask her to put in more effort
Now when she was going up to the bell to investigate we waited for her to offer us more. She would investigate the bell with her nose, then she began to use her paw and this turned into the bell ringing when she touched the top
Make going outside the reward
The first few times she rang the bell to be let out we not only gave her what she wanted and opened the door but also continued to mark and reward her. We then just used verbal praise and access to outside as her reinforcement.
Ringing a bell was a skill that Evie hadn’t learned before and with some consistency, focus and eliminating the opportunity for her to perform a behaviour we didn’t want her to do, she mastered this within a few hours.
Since we taught Evie that the best way to get us to open the door is to ring the bell, this has become her default behaviour when she wants to go outside; and as you can see in the video she is even willing to wait a while until we can get to the door rather than try another behaviour (scratching) that we have not allowed to be reinforced.