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Be Your Dog’s “Choice Architect”

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Training your dog is really about teaching him or her to make the ‘right’ choices in life.  The term ‘Choice Architect’ was coined by Behavioural Economists, the bods who analyse how to arrange products on supermarket shelves to influence what you and I buy.  But the concept applies just as well to dog training…

YOU have the power!

As the Responsible Adult, you have the power to influence the options available to your dog; you can make ‘bad behaviours’ harder for Fido to do and ‘good behaviours’ easier for him/her to do.  Here are a few examples …

  • Problem Behaviour: Fido pesters at the table when the family eat.
  • Choice Architect:  At mealtimes, Fido is given a delicious Kong or food puzzle toy, in his play pen so he has something interesting to do while the family eats.
  • Problem Behaviour: Snuggles keeps digging holes in the garden.
  • Choice Architect: Get Snuggles a sand pit, hide some ‘treasure’ in it and encourage Snuggles to get her dig-fix there.
  • Problem Behaviour:  Fido keeps getting on the sofa when no one’s watching; he’s not allowed!
  • Choice Architect: Get Fido a comfy bed, season with tasty treats and favourite toys, place near the sofa;  put a barrier across the sofa so Fido cant practise the errant behaviour (sofa jumping).

Stack The Odds In Your Favour … 

Clever dog trainers give the dog freedom to make choices … but stack the deck in their favour by narrowing the dog’s options!  Kathy Sdao (Dog Training Guru) cites a lovely example of how her friend each morning lays out two outfits on her daughters bed, then asks her which one she’d like to wear to Nursery that day.  The daughter chooses between acceptable options rather than unacceptable ones.  Its the same with your dog.

Opportunity Knocks

When you decide to be a “Choice Architect” you get in the mind set of creating opportunities for your dog to select the ‘correct’ behaviour. This gets your dog’s brain working; makes life less fraught and, means you become a source of praise and rewards for Fido’s good behaviour, rather than a source of reprimands or threats for bad behaviour.  And, let’s face it, saying “NO” to your dog constantly is tiring!  Instead, choose to architect the environment so Fido chooses correctly and you can say “YES!”

This article was written by Joy Matthews and inspired by Kathy Sdao’s wonderful book “Plenty In Life is Free”.  If you have any questions or would like help training your dog, contact Joy@Joyfuldogs.co.uk