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WTF?! What's the Function?

All behaviour happens because it serves a purpose and has a function.

This is one of the fundamentals behind dog training, and we use this to train our dogs to behave the way we want them too.

However it is also why your dog is doing the unwanted behaviours you maybe seeing. For example your dog keeps running off.

Your dog is super social, and every time they see a dog, they run over and greet the dog, while you stand there holding a piece of chicken, calling their name.

That behaviour has just been inadvertently reinforced, as getting opportunity to say hello and meet that other dog is incredibly reinforcing to the dog, much more reinforcing to that social dog than the piece of chicken in your hand.

The function of the running off behaviour is to get to greet that other dog, and for the dog is a great behaviour, and really effective. However for us, we now have an out of control dog that doesn’t recall, which is a problem behaviours.

What can we do to change this?

First we need to stop the dog practicing this behaviour, as every time our dog does the problem behaviour, it causes neurones in the brain to fire, strengthening that neural pathway, making the behaviour stronger. So in this instance, the dog needs to go on a long line.

What is the behaviour we would like instead?

Personally, I would want a dog who could see another dog, keep calm, stay with me and check in, or if they were a bit of distance away from me, recall to be with me.

How would I would start training this?

So the behaviours and skills I need to work on are recall, impulse control and eye contact and focus. I would start training these at home, then in the garden, then out on quiet walks then eventually building in the distractions, such as people or dogs at a distance, then eventually closer. I would only progress onto the next stage when my dog is 90% successful at the previous stage. Only removing the long line when I am 100% my dog is not going to run off towards other dogs.

Figuring out what the function is behind the behaviour and following these simple steps are a great way to start changing some of the problem behaviours you may be having.

Remember training is all about setting our dogs up for success.

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