Laugh and Your Dog Laughs With You

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Have you ever laughed at something silly that your dog did, only to have that behavior repeated again…and again…and again? This isn’t a coincidence. In her book The Thinking Dog: Crossover to Clicker Training, Gail Fisher describes laughter as highly reinforcing for many dogs, often a more powerful reward than petting!

laughing dog

Not all dogs have a sense of humor, but for those that do, laughter is highly rewarding. The good news is that clicker training can be so much that you may laugh a lot. The not-so-good news (it’s really not bad news, just something to be aware of), is that your laughter can reinforce something you don’t intend to reward.

Many trainers who compete in dog sports have experienced the pain of their dog making an entertaining error in the ring. The spectators laugh at the dog’s antics, possibly unaware that their enjoyment encourages the dog to repeat the same error time and again. After all, the crowd loved it even if his handler didn’t.

So when your dog’s antics make you laugh, consider that your laughter may be all your dog needs to reward that behavior, encouraging him to do it again…and again…and…”

(excerpted from The Thinking Dog: Crossover to Clicker Training)

crackerjack's picture

barking and nipping at my older dog

I have a blue heeler puppy about 13 weeks of age.........I also have a very quiet and lady like Boston Terrier.........He is doing well with clicker training, comes when called, sits, and almost has the "down" as well......BUT ......when he isn't playing he yips, and barks, and nips at this older dog constantly.......I need some help to figure out what to do!

smart dog university's picture

Puppy Nipping

Thanks for your comment. Does the older dog "give up" and let the younger dog do whatever he wants, or will she set good boundaries for the younger dog? If he (the younger dog) seems to be steamrolling the older dog, you'll need to impose playing limits. You can let him drag his leash, allow him to play with the older dog for a minute or so (you don't want him to get completely ramped up), then separate the two. Ask the pup for some basic behaviors, clicking and treating for each. If he's able to regulate his activity level, you can allow another minute of play. Then repeat the process. The key is to monitor the play, allowing the pup to play, but to not become over exuberant and to teach him some self control skills. 

If, however, the older dog sets clear boundaries and is able to communicate to the pup when enough is enough, I say "great!" and let her teach him appropriate dog play and dog boundaries. 

Enjoy that pup, they grow so fast!

Laurie Luck
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at