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What Happened Next?

23/01/2024 - Training Tips and Principles

I do ask a lot of questions

As those of you who have worked with me before know, I do like to ask a lot of questions, so this blog gives you a hint of  some of those initial questions I ask when I am problem solving a client’s struggles. The aim for me is to understand the behaviour so that I can give some insight into why the training you have tried is not working and give you options for helping you help your dog.

To help you assess your own dog ...

Here are the big FOUR questions to ask yourself with some TOP TIPS to help you.

What is the behaviour that you are struggling with?

It seems a simple question, and sometimes it can be easy to define, but often it takes a while to hone down.

So for now, think about a behaviour that you struggle with, write it down if that helps. Pick something less complicated to start with so that you can work through the following questions without getting too bogged down.


Be specific.

Be as specific as possible because that will help when you start to work on a solution. 

For example, if your dog jumps up on people, think about where it happens, when does it happen, when doesn’t it happen, and so on.

What happened next?

The behaviour has happened as you have described it above, but now think about what happened next. And then what happened after that? What did you do? What did your dog do? And then what happened after that?

The behaviour often does not end immediately. For example, dog jumps up.

  • Then what? I tell him to get down.
  • Then what? I ask him to sit.
  • Then what? I give him a treat.
  • Then what? He jumps on me again / walks off / jumps on my partner / rags at my clothes … and so on.

This is all painting a picture of a behaviour chain that will be useful later on.


Video the behaviour.

When you watch the recording, don't just watch your dog, also take note of what you do and how that influences your dog, and how the environment adds to the picture.

What happened before?

Go back in time. What happened before the behaviour occurred?  It might not be immediately before, it might be what happened that morning, or even the day before.

Let’s think about this jumping up.

  • It could be that you put your hand in the treat bag which predicted attention.
  • Or it could be that your dog has spent the last 90 seconds politely asking for attention e.g. sitting, nuzzling your hand, looking longingly into your eyes … and that has been ignored.
  • Or it could be that they had a a crazy adrenalie filled run earlier in the day, or a rubbish night's sleep because there was a mouse in the house … yes, that happened to me recently which meant my dog was a little OTT the following day mouse hunting.


Keep a diary.

It does not have to be anything fancy. It could be about your walks, what you feed, what mood your dog (or yourself) were in that day.

Diaries give you data, and that can be really useful to be able to track what is going on..

What would you like to happen?

Now, this is the most difficult question that clients need to answer. And I have to be honest, it sometimes leads to an uncomfortable discussion for a few minutes.

Most people jump to an answer which is about NOT wanting X to happen. For example, I don’t want my dog to jump up.

That’s not going to help me or you. That leads to the inevitable desire of stopping a behaviour once it has already happened. That can be useful, but in the end most people want the behaviour not to happen in the first place.

  • You need to decide what you would like to happen so that you can develop a plan.
  • You need to think about whether that is suitable for all members of your family, including your dog.
  • You need to think about whether the practicalities of what you are proposing work in the environment.
  • You need to be mindful of how complex the behaviour may be to train, and whether there is a version that might be a stepping stone to the final behaviour.



Walk it through.

You don’t need your dog for this, you just need to consider the environment and what is possible.  
For example, if you are looking at what you  might like to happen when you walk out of your gate where your dog drags you through, and you have decided that you would like your dog to sit, then where will they sit, is there enough room and can you still open the gate?

Walking it through often highlights and practical limits and helps you work through to a sensible solution.

So there you go. The point of this blog is not to give you all the answers, I would rather just get you thinking. Many of the dogs that I see have been described as stubborn or difficult, but often, when we dig deeper, there is much more to them:

  • The dog is very good at working things out.
  • The dog is really bright.
  • The dog thinks what they are doing is the right thing to do because it has been inadvertently reinforced.
  • The behaviour has become a habit.
  • And so on.
In terms of what happened next in the picture, Jess alerted me to the fact that there was a group of excitable people approaching from behind us, so I calmly stepped to the side. Jess came with me as that is a cue that she knows, and we hung out together until the people had passed. That meant there was far less likelihood of Jess approaching or jumping on the people and getting reinforced for that behaviour, or even getting frightened by them which can happen.

If you have found this  interesting, why not share to someone you feel it could help. If you would like to find out more about my approach, take a look here and book in a chat so I can see if I can help.