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The Behaviour Interrupter Teaching and Testing phase

The Behaviour Interrupter

The Behaviour Interrupter is a program I wrote quite a few years ago after discovering it was a “tool” I frequently used on my trained dogs. I had inadvertently trained my dogs in this way without actually calling it a program or knowingly doing it.

You see in a lot of cases I see good dog trainers that have well trained dogs and they would find it hard to explain the steps in the correct order to help you achieve the same results but they do it time and time again.

It took me almost no time at all to be good at training dogs, I think by the time I was 18 I was pretty proficient and made quite a few experts double take what my dogs could do under what conditions, and I am pretty proud of that; But it took and has taken a lot more years to be able to train people to train their dogs.

The goal of this 16 week challenge is to teach you how to train your pup not teach you what to do. For example the Behaviour Interrupter, Whats your name, Training in Drive engagement programs are all built on “Premacks Principle”.

My way of explaining this to you is covered well in The Importance of Premack.

So basically we put a very high value reward at the end of a sequence and even the most boring parts of the sequence become rewarding based on the end.

So the sequence may be “click click” > puppy responds > yes > handler moves away from pup > pup races after reward and eats it. The click click is the first of the sequence and predicts the reward and produces the behaviour. So if you change the click click to the dogs name, or the word ready then these words will have a high value very soon and they will have the pup delivering a behaviour to get the reward.

A dog trainer does not need to know that they are using the (David) Premack Principle to be good at it. I know the writings of David Premack through my studies as a Canine Behaviour Specialist, but many people use these systems without knowing what they are called, but you must know the elements and you must put them in the right order if you are to retain the benefits of these programs.

One element is the ability to “stall” a training program.

I stall programs when I want the dog to increase its input of effort, precision, thinking or duration. This means I teach the dog the sequence and when the dog is proficient I “stall” on one of the steps, just never the first one.

For example I might teach a dog to get on a Tub or platform which entails me triggering the dogs drive, looking or touching the platform or even luring the dog up and marking and releasing the behaviour until the dog can efficiently climb on the platform to my specification.

So I will add a name to the behaviour like “up” and the pup will climb up. This causes me to say YES and the puppy jumps off to get the reward, simple.

So now I … Ready? > pup goes into drive > up > puppy climbs onto tub  and gives me eye contact waiting for the yes > STALL > puppy expects reward, can see the reward and wants the reward but the whole plan has stalled.

The puppy is on the tub waiting and I slowly move away. The pup knows it cannot access the reward experience unless it stays on the tub but the reward is escaping. The pup, holding itself back will become frustrated and likely do one of two things.

1. Something we want such as barking

2. Something we don’t want which triggers an NRM (No reward marker).

If it is 1 and I was trying to get the pup to bark, I mark yes on one bark, then on two barks etc. If it is #2 I NRM and walk away, re trigger the dog and wait for barking.

This stall produced a behaviour choice, one that you cannot lure…

Now some people will call this shaping but I wont clutter this article with my argument on that, but lets just do a small test on your pup.


I expect now as you have had access to the Library you will have trained the Behaviour Interrupter. If not please train that now.

When you have your pup respnding as per the program I want you to record on video your first “stall”. So lets agree with where we will be.

1. The pup knows the sound you choose through Premack (you will have made the sound a ot and rewarded it after>

2. The pup know after the sound you will mark yes and move away from the pup so the pup expects to hear the sound, turn around and come to you.

Now you need to make the sound, when the pup turns around STALL. Do not mark, do not move away, just stand there.

You will have one of three out comes.

1. The pup will lose interest. This means you need more reinforcement on the sound.

2. The pup jumps at you and loses interest. This means the pup gives up fast and needs to learn more ways (behaviours) to make you say yes.

3. The pup looks in your eyes and can hold this stare for 5 seconds. This is ideal. The pup knows that it has the behaviour right, it does not falter when the yes and the reward comes but instead stares at you expecting you to move. Mark Yes and reward a lot.

# 3 is ideal because stress occurs when the dog does not know how to make the reward come, so the pup in #3 knows how to control stress already by not wavering from the behaviour.

Many people, especially those in agility like their dogs to shape. I think this is largely due to Susan Garret. The problem most of these dogs have is that as soon as you ask them for any duration they become stressed and move to another behaviour to reduce / avoid stress, so try to get them to do anything stable is very hard.

I want a dog that knows a behaviour, delivers it and when I don’t reward instantly stays committed to it. So now that you have had your pups for a couple of weeks, I want to see how your pup does in this testing phase.

There is no pass or fail, it is just a point of reference.


Record via video your results and explain what you see! Post this on the Herzhund Owners Facebook Page


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