Ian likes to solve common behavior problems by making the problem the solution. To do this, he teaches his dog to do exactly the behavior he doesn’t want. I’ve heard this advice before, especially when it comes to excessive barking- usually, people say that you should teach your dog to bark on cue, and then don’t cue it, but Ian explained it a bit further: if you train one behavior, you often get the opposite for free, so you might as well take advantage of that.
The way Ian does this is to get the problem behavior on cue, and then when the dog naturally does the opposite- being quiet to take a breath for example, you can get that on cue, too. He yo-yos between the two behaviors so that the dog understands the difference, using treats at first, but eventually using the problem behavior as the reward for the good one. Once the dog fully understands both cues, if the dog engages in the problem behavior, Ian simply redirects the dog with the cue for the desire behavior. Makes sense!
He identified seven common behavior problems that people have with their pet dogs, and how he trains the problem to find the solution. Here they are:
For hyperactive dogs, Ian teaches “jazz up” and “settle down.” First, he trains the dog to go crazy on cue. He recommended jumping around, giggling, and generally acting like a kid. (Bonus points if you actually have a kid to help you with this!) Then, he goes dead still, and the dog usually calms down too. You can read more about this in his own words here.
2. Excessive Barking
For excessive or problem barking, Ian teaches “woof” and “shush.” He finds that for most dogs, you can provoke the barking by ringing the doorbell (or having a friend do it for you). Then, after the doorbell stops- or when the dog stops- you can cue the dog to be quiet. I really liked that Ian teaches his dogs to bark once- and only once- when the doorbell rings. He wants people to know that he has dogs, especially if he isn’t home. You can read more about this here.
3. Jumping on People
His cues here are “hug” (so cute, but that might only work for the taller dogs- or at least the ones more agile than Maisy) and “sit.” You can read a bit more from Ian on dogs jumping up here.
4. Pulling on Leash
Ian, with his malamute loving ways, teaches his dogs to pull on leash, and I can’t think of a better reward for dogs who were originally bred to pull sleds. Alternate pulling with walking nicely (or even heeling), and both you and your dog get what rewards out of the walk. Interestingly, the information on his website (see it here) does not talk about teaching the opposite.
5. Grabbing (“stealing”) Objects
Teach the dog to “take it” and “drop it” on cue. Bonus points if you teach a “leave it” or an “off” cue for those dead animals you simply don’t want your dog grabbing in the first place. Here is some information on how Ian teaches it.
6. Dog Moving at the Wrong Speed
How do you teach a border collie to go faster? Teach him to go slow first! This is apparently good for agility dogs, where you might need a bit more control as you teach the obstacles. Then you can cue the dog to go faster. And once he understands what it means to speed up, you can cue the running dog to move even faster yet! Here’s a video on Ian’s site. This concept could also be helpful for pet dogs on walks.
7. Running Away
Many, many dogs not only fail to come when called, but will actually take off in the other direction! Ian solves this problem by using chase games. Take off running in the other direction, and your dog is sure to follow. I am not sure if Ian teaches the dog to run away on cue by chasing the dog or not. There is a little on training a recall here.
Have you used any of these things? I do play opposites for the recall- I call it the Come! Go! game. I personally haven’t had much luck with the jazz up/settle down games, although Maisy’s hyperactivity is probably anxiety-based. I haven’t tried the game since she’s been on meds, but I bet I’d have better luck now. Anyway, I’d love to hear if you’ve solved a problem by training the opposite.