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The "wrong way" can often be used
effectively to train your dog

Wrong way often helps train animals

Fred the Irish setter used to get yelled at frequently. The single most common word that he heard was “No!” Whenever he heard it, he cringed in terror. His owners, the Lamberts, had difficulty training Fred because they had no way to tell him that he made a mistake. If they said ‘no’, he would run and hide in the corner and refuse to work.



When an animal is learning something new, it will make errors. In Fred's case, errors were met with serious disapproval. Though his owners did not actually harm him, the association of the word "No!" with punishment was so strong that it shattered his confidence.

If the Lamberts ignored the errors, however, Fred learned the behavior incorrectly. The Lamberts finally solved their problem in an unlikely place - the carnival.

German Pinscher Dog

A Wrong Way Breakthrough

While walking down the midway, one of the barkers cajoled Mr.Lambert into tossing a softball at a stack of metal milk bottles.Mr. Lambert threw the ball and missed. Instead of yelling at him and calling him a loser, the barker said, "Ah,gee, mister, that was so close. You ought to try it again!"

Mr. Lambert was shocked. he suddenly realized was Fred's problem was. The Lamberts had meant to communicate to Fred that he had missed the target and "ought to try again." What they taught him by saying "No!" was to avoid the behavior entirely.

Mr. Lambert realized that he needed a gentle way to tell Fred that he had made a mistake. He decided to use the word "wrong." Every time Fred made a minor error, Mr. Lambert would say the word "wrong" and ignore the dog for a minute. Sometimes he would leave the room for a while after using this new word.

Soon, Fred made an association with the word. He found out that if he heard the word "wrong," he could expect to be ignored for at least 30 seconds. The affection and attention that he wanted was removed when he made an error. Instead of cringing in terror, Fred would get excited and try the behavior again. Mr. Lambert had found a very powerful and useful tool.

After a few sessions, Mr. Lambert was convinced his new tool was a good one. He decided to try it on an especially irritating problem. Fred always jumped on guests who entered the Lambert home.

Training - No Longer the Wrong Way

Mr. Lambert asked a friend to come to his house and ring the bell. He told the guest that if he heard the word "wrong," he was to immediately leave the house. This time, when Fred charged to greet a new guest, something odd happened. As Fred started to jump up, he heard the word "wrong." The friend ignored Fred and left the house. Fred was stumped.

A few seconds later, the bell rang again. The friend came into the house and Fred started to jump again. He heard the word "wrong" and the friend left. This was not Fred's idea of a good time. He had to figure out what was happening.

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On the next attempt, Fred changed his plan. He remembered that he had heard that awful word just as he started to jump up. Fred decided to fool his owner - by not jumping up! This time, the friend entered the house and Fred stood still. The friend came closer, but Fred remained standing. Mr. Lambert praised Fred for not jumping. Fred was delighted that he had tricked his owner into giving him affection for simply standing.

Most animals are willing to work for their owner’s attention and affection. Withholding praise can be a powerful and humane tool for teaching your pet. The next time you feel the urge to punish your pet, just say “wrong” instead.

Gary Wilkes

Copyright 1991-2003 Gary Wilkes - All rights reserved.http://www.clickandtreat.com/Wrong way often helps train animals

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"Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace." - Milan Kundera