Minimalist Training: Incompatible Behaviors

Incompatible Behaviors:

Incompatible behaviors are things that our dogs do that are incompatible with other behaviors; both cannot happen at the same time.  Here are some examples:

Lying down is incompatible with jumping up – they cannot both be happening at the same time.

Pulling on a leash is incompatible with looking at the handler.

A toy in a dog’s mouth is incompatible with mouthing, biting or nipping.

Often the simplest way to manage a dog’s behavior is by thinking carefully about what the dog is doing and then ask ourselves – is there something that our dogs already know that is incompatible with what we don’t like?

If you don’t want your dog to jump up on people, ask the dog to do something that is incompatible with the behavior that you don’t like.  It may not train the dog, but it will get you through that moment in time.

If a person has incredibly limited training time and not a lot of desire to train their dog, I’m going to suggest two key behaviors that will keep most dogs out of big trouble, most of the time.  Put all of your energy into making these behaviors bombproof, and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.   

Teach your dog “Come” and “stay.”

Come!  If a dog is coming towards you, they are not jumping on another person.  They are not digging in your neighbor’s garden and they are not getting hit by a car.  Hard to beat all of that.

Stay!  I don’t care how or where your dog stays – sit, down, stay on a mat, or a combination the three; all of these work just fine.  If your dog can stay put, then you have something to do with your dog after they come to you.  Now you can open your front door to bring in your groceries, keep your dogs from bothering people, or hold them in one place and eliminate running through the house at inopportune times.

That’s it.  With those two behaviors, life will be much easier.  So train them vigilantly.  Be generous with the cookies and the praise.  Spend a few minutes each week putting these skills to the test under distraction.  And have a reasonably happy life with your dog – at least at home.

Yes, there are plenty of other behaviors that come in handy too, and since I’m a dog trainer, I happen to enjoy training many of them.

But if I’m talking to a a person who only wants to get along with minimal effort; consider starting with those two: come and stay.


About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.
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One Response to Minimalist Training: Incompatible Behaviors

  1. Sonya Bevan says:

    Great post. Maybe I can pick your brains for a suggestion? I have a lab who greets with gusto and has the alternative behaviour of sitting. This works to prevent jumping but the arousal remains for quite a few minutes and then as the greeter starts walking, the lab will follow and give a nip to a piece of clothing. Probably one to three and then settles. I’ve thought of options:
    a) More greeting time in a calm manner, giving more time for excitement to settle before walking off,
    b) Being ready with something to give her (ball, toy) before walking off (not always possible with sudden greetings).
    Do you have another suggestion?
    Maybe I’ve answered my own question: need to train the sit to a higher level, longer duration with more calmness?


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