Rats and Dogs – 3

This blog series looks at the basics of learned behaviours through a series of puzzles, designed to help you to consider how understand and modify your approach in different situations.


So, we’ve talked about rats and peanuts and we’ve talked about how to train your dog to sit and we’ve discussed positive behaviours and reward. Now it gets trickier.

Let’s say you’ve trained your dog to sit, and your dog has consistently responded to the command for years. This week’s question is… what do you do if you no longer want your dog to sit when you use the command?

Now, that may seem an odd thing to do with a dog, (although my deaf, arthritic dog who used to sit in response to a hand signal which was easy to give accidentally who used to sit regularly even though it hurt her to do so, is one example where you might need to puzzle this one through). In the world of work though, this challenge is a real one.

You see, some of the behaviours which are embedded may no longer be the right ones.  Through our working lives we’ve been rewarded for certain behaviours and this has become part of our learnt behaviour. Examples of those behaviours might include: being the person who manages every project, knowing absolutely everything that goes on, being the only person who clients see, meddling (!).

If those behaviours are no longer useful to us or the business it isn’t usually enough just to recognise this.

No amount of explaining to your dog that you no longer want it to sit on command is likely to change this response. If I want to retrain my dog I have to proactively train them to do something else in response to the command. I’ll probably have to work pretty hard to do this, and I will probably need to train the new behaviour for longer than the original behaviour. Sometimes, despite all this the dog may still slip up and deliver the old behaviour, and when that happens, we’ll gloss over it and redouble our training efforts with lots and lots of reward.

We need to retrain different behaviours to the command/trigger and we may also want to increase the size of the reward for this new behaviour.


What behaviours do you want to stop?

What are you going to do instead?

What is the command/trigger you need to look out for?

How will you reward yourself, or others for the new response?






























Blog by Isla…

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