Eliminating Disobedience

In my previous post, I talked about discovering your puppy’s/toddler’s motivations.

Once you know their motivations, you need to eliminate other ways of getting what they want.

There’s no point in insisting that they jump through hoops if they are given other alternatives.

After all, no puppy is going to sit for a cookie if she can just snatch one off the table instead.

Similarly, a toddler will not wait in his chair for a snack if he can yank open the fridge and grab it himself.

Operant conditioning only works if your way is the only way for him/her to get what he/she wants.

If you want to train a rat to press a lever, for example, then you make it that the lever MUST be pressed in order for the rat to get a drop of sugar water. If the sugar water is just sitting there in a bowl, the rat is never going to press that lever.

So, once you have set up an if-you-want-that-then-you-must-do-this rule, you need to make sure that no other avenues are left open.

Put the dog treats out of reach, or put the puppy on a leash so that she physically cannot get to them. Put a child lock on the fridge (a good idea in any case) or buckle your toddler into his high chair.

Say your puppy wants freedom at the park, and you call him over to you. If he doesn’t turn right around and come back to you, make sure he loses that freedom (attaching a long line is a good way to go about this, that way you can just step on the line and reel the dog in).

If he does come back, praise him and turn him loose again.

Say your toddler wants to run amok at the mall, and you tell her to hold your hand. If she doesn’t allow you to take her hand, chase her down and pick her up (don’t tell me you can’t outrun someone whose legs are a third the length of yours, unless you are in a wheelchair, in which case, a long line might be a good idea).

If she wants to walk in the mall, she can do it holding your hand, or she doesn’t get to walk at all.

If a dog learns that he can just ignore you when you call, of course he won’t come to you. If a toddler learns that she can just run away giggling and have a great time when you insist she hold your hand, of course she’s never going to hold your hand.

Remember, the rule always has to be if-you-want-that-then-you-must-do-this.

If they don’t, they lose their chance to get what they want.

Win-win, or lose-lose.

Those have to be the options.


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