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SG Susan Garrett
SG If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you probably know that everything I train dogs to do
I do in the form of a game. We have a mantra around here. Work is Play and Play is Work. Today I’m
going to do a deep dive how you can minimize the time that you need to train by keeping this mantra in
the back of your mind.
Hi, I’m Susan Garrett. Welcome to Shaped by Dog. And today, I’m going to share with you how I end
up training my dog even when I’m not training my dog. I do that by looking for what’s a value to my dog
every day around the house and how they get reinforced for the things that they love to do. For
example, Tater Salad loves watermelon. Like he’s crazy about watermelon. I would say that’s one of
his most favorite foods on the planet.
And he also loves lying in the sun. And so, when he’s lying in the sun and his most favorite place to lay
in the sun is on the window bench right in the dining area. You can find him there most days for most of
the day. If the sun’s out, that’s where he’s going to be lying, unless somebody cuts watermelon, which
by the way, happens a lot around this house because Kim loves watermelon even more than Tater
Any time somebody starts cutting watermelon, Tater’s ears perk up. And he looks around to see if
anyone’s giving him watermelon, which is not going to happen. But he does know that us humans love
it when dogs go to their Hot Zone what we call dog beds around the house. So, he will leave his place
in the sun, and he will dutifully park himself in a Hot Zone when the watermelon starts getting cut.
It just cracks me up because there is no way he would ever be in a Hot Zone if it wasn’t for the fact that
somebody is cutting watermelons. It reminds me of a Terrier that I used to have, Twister. And I actually
taught her to jump on a kitchen chair whenever my now passed husband, John, would start to put out
Now I did that because she used to drive John crazy whining and doing Terrier screams when he was
getting dinner ready. And I wanted him to keep feeding dogs, so I, of course, trained Twister to do a
different behavior. And that was to sit in a chair. So, she would sit in that chair, and I would, of course,
throw her the odd little tidbit whenever I was working in the kitchen.
If no one noticed her in that chair, she would start rocking the chair back and forth. It was hysterical,
like dogs do what is reinforcing. That is what B.F. Skinner taught us many, many years ago, and dogs
continue to teach us. They show us where the value is. For Tater Salad, watermelon is a big one. And
I’ll tell you one thing that isn’t a big one.
If the sun is out and we go to take the dogs for a walk, which we do many times a day, first thing in the
morning, the dogs go for a walk. All the Border Collies are out the door. Boom. You have to call Tater
Salad, and if it’s a really hot summer day, we actually allow Tater to say, “I don’t want to go for a walk.”
However, it looks something like this.
I will call him, and he comes to the door; I open the door I say, “break.” He will go out the door and turn
left and just collapse in the sun. And I’m like, “Okay buddy; you don’t have to go this round.” And here’s
the tough thing you’re going to say “Oh, Susan, that’s so mean the dog doesn’t want to come. Why are
you making them come? What happened to all that consent you talked about that in episode number
I also talked about something called substitute consent. Now I did say if the dog is in pain, I will
substitute my consent to help them. Now, Tater wouldn’t be in pain, but I know that him going for a walk
is in his best interest. It helps him live a long life. And I also know that when he gets out there, he has a
blast. Now, if it’s really hot out there, I let him say, “I’m hot; I’m going to sun myself.” But if it isn’t, then
I’m going to say, “Buddy, you’ve got to come with me.”
And so, what happens is I’ll put them on leash for the first like minute or two, and then I take the leash
off, and the guy goes nuts. Like I belly laugh at him. He starts chasing grasshoppers. He goes ripping
up and down the hills, and you’re going to say, “Well, why would he ever say, “I don’t want to go. I just
want to lie in the sun.” Think about this. Have you ever been in your bed snuggled under a deep duvet,
and it’s really, really cold outside?”
Maybe even it’s— you’re in a drafty bedroom, and it’s cold in your bedroom, and your alarm goes off,
and you go, “Oh no, I got, I don’t, I’m going to hit the snooze bar.” And you’re going to just hunker down
there a little bit. And then you’re going to; it’s going to go off again. You might hit the snooze bar a
couple of times before you finally brave it on the first little bit out of the cold; you hate it, but then you
get dressed, and you get your day started.
You’re like, “Hey, I got a lot to do! This is awesome!” Yeah, that’s called competing values. I am
hunkered down in my bed, and I don’t want to leave it. But once I get up and go going like, “Yeah, I’m
actually got a lot to do, and I’m excited, and I’m ready to go. And off I go for my day.” That’s kind of like
what happens with Tater.
“I’m in the sun. I don’t want to go on your little walkabout; take your little Border Collies and have at it.”
Competing values. “I love the sun. Watermelon trumps the sun, but yeah, your walk doesn’t.” But just
like literally 90 seconds into the walk, he doesn’t turn around and go back in the sun. He goes, “Oh
yeah! This is good.” So sometimes, you have to override. You have to substitute your consent because
you know your dog is going to have an awesome time when they get going.
And so, the dogs tell us where’s the value. I’m going to give you another great example. My puppy
This! loves to train with me, but I train mostly in the dog training building or in the house somewhere.
Well, recently, I’ve been doing jump grids, and I’ve been setting them up on the front lawn, and boom,
what an eye-opener it was for me. She was doing jump grids really well until Kim came out to water the
flowers on the front porch, lost my puppy.
I called her to do another grid, and she was looking at Kim and looking at the pond, and she was
starting running towards Kim a little bit and then came back to me and running towards the pond, and
I’m like, “what’s going on?”. Our dogs will always tell us where the value is. And it dawned on me that
anytime Kim is outside is party time for the puppy. Because Kim goes outside when she either takes
the dogs for a swim in the pond or if she takes the dogs for walks around the field.
And so, Kim being outside there is competing values. “Yeah, I like doing grids, but she kept looking to
the front door, even though Kim was nowhere near the front door, she kept looking to the front door
because magically that door’s going to come open and all my friends, all my family going to come
running out and we’re going to do fun things around the field, or maybe go in the pond.” Hysterical.
So, competing values. It made me laugh, but our dogs will always tell us where the reinforcement is.
So, all that I did, I said, “Okay, Kim, can you just sit on the front porch?” And I’m going to remind her
how much fun it is to do jump grids with me. Kim’s not going anywhere. You don’t see any other dogs
Now sometimes, those competing values are so high. It’s overwhelming for you, and you don’t know
what to do. For example, sometimes people you know they’re taking their dogs to train somewhere,
and there’s other dogs swimming in the pond. Well, that’s just so overwhelming. What I would do is do
something that’s super easy.
Minimize, get out of there, and then just go back and build up to, all right, there’s going to be a pond
but no dogs, or there’s going to be a kiddy pool and dogs in that kiddy pool. Dogs will always tell us
what the competing values are. And it always makes me laugh. And remember, what’s reinforcing to a
dog? Obviously, food, obviously toys, permission. Remember in episode 11; I talked about the power
Permission is a big thing, but it’s permission to do activities. And so sometimes, like around this place
in the morning, I always get a belly laugh because This! will get doing the zoomies. And then she’s
doing the zoomies with her mother, but then Tater Salad tries to get involved and he’s like a dump
truck without brakes. And so, he’s chasing This! but if she puts on the brakes fast, like a quick little
Border Collie will do, he just jumps up and over. It cracks me up. Okay. I digress. We got food, toys,
permission, activities, but here’s a big thing that’s reinforcing for dogs. It’s our attention.
Now this works for us, and it works to get us unless we are really present to what it is that we’re doing
to reinforce these activities. So, one of the things that I know that I am very guilty of, and I’m present to
it most of the time, is when my dogs do something, and it cracks me up; it just makes me laugh. That is
my attention. And that ends up getting more of what the dog is doing.
I bet if you think about it, there is something your dog does that you laugh at that your dog over time
realizes that’s getting your attention which is what they love. And so, my puppy, she— you know,
before her there were no dogs in the bed. Now I have a little blanket where she’s allowed on the bed. If
I get up in the middle of the night, she stretched out as long as she can be. And when she hears me
get up, she starts thumping her tail. Because thumping her tail makes me laugh.
And then I come over, and I give her a little belly rub on my way to the bathroom. Always cracks me up.
Another thing, in the middle of the day, I might go, “Okay, I’m going to the bathroom.” and if it’s
anything like your house anything like mine, when I go to the bathroom, I generally get a pile of dogs
that want to pile in there.
And some days, I’m like, I just need a quick pee. And so, what I do, is I close the bathroom door. Well,
the bathroom that’s right at the bottom of the stairs, it’s an ensuite to our guest room and it’s got a little
pocket door. Well, as soon as I close that door This! rips around the entire house to get into the main
door, to the master bedroom, and get into that bathroom before I even get to the toilet. It always makes
And that’s probably why she always does it. Remember laughing is attention; attention means it’s going
to happen more often. Like dogs that roll on bones. Why is that so funny? I have no idea, but it always
makes me laugh, which means it’s going to happen more often. I’ll tell you something else that
happens more and more frequently these days is dogs chewing bones in dog beds.
Now it used to be, we gave dogs bones, and they could chew them anywhere they wanted. Sometimes
they like, some dogs like to chew near me with the bone. Other dogs would like to be away from the
other dogs. They all had their spots, and I didn’t really care. Well, a while ago, I got a new carpet, and I
decided I didn’t really want dogs chewing meaty bones on the carpet. Like that was disgusting.
And at the same time, Tater Salad came into the house. That was when we adopted Tater from his first
home, he was 15 months old, and he came with a massive chewing problem in that he chewed
furniture like a lot of furniture. And a part of the problem was he would start chewing a bone. He would
push it up against a piece of furniture, and then the bone will fall, and he just chew the furniture. That
was how it went. And so, because I wanted to keep the carpet clean and because I didn’t want Tater to
learn to chew my furniture, I had this great idea. “Hey, Kim, let’s shape the dogs to chew bones in dog
And so, it was a gradual process that we built up, and it cracks me up to this day. And it is mostly Tater
Salad, This!, and Momentum, because those are the three big chewers in my house. When I see them
pick up a bone and walk over to a dog bed to chew it, I have no idea why it cracks me up, but it always
cracks me up.They could chew anywhere, but they don’t because they know that they get
reinforcement. If they chew the bone in the dog bed, what happens if I see them doing that, I will get
up, walk by and throw them a few cookies. I don’t do it all the time, but it’s often enough that it
reinforces them. Sure, they get reinforcement for chewing on the bone, but it reinforces their good
decision because every once in a while, they get cookies from heaven.
They just drop down while they’re chewing. They have no idea; sometimes I throw them from where I’m
sitting. They get their reinforcement, it always makes me laugh. Why do these crazy things our dogs do
make us laugh? I have no idea. But that will take me to dinner time around here. And my dogs
obviously play Crate Games, but when I’m preparing dog food, the only rule I have is you are not
allowed to be near where I’m dishing out the food.
Why is that? Because the Terriers and the Border Collies, if they were under your feet when you were
preparing dinner, somebody might say something about somebody’s mother in army boots, or
somebody might decide they’re going to resource guard me while I’m preparing food. So, I made a
rule. You can be anywhere you want. But you can’t be anywhere near the area where I’m preparing
So, I carried that rule on when we moved into this new house. And I have these crates built-in under a
counter. I never once told the dogs, “You have to be in those crates.” But they just started hanging out
in the crates. And so, Feature would be in the crates, and she would have like three-quarters of her
body in the crate, and she would be lying down, and her front paws would hang out and touch the floor.
I didn’t think anything of it. That would be my first mistake. And eventually, her feet would hang out on
the floor, but instead of lying down, she’d be standing.
And then pretty quickly, instead of three-quarters of her body being in the crate, like three-quarters of
her body was outside of the crate and just her two back paws were in the crate. And now, as a 14-yearold dog, here’s what I’ve got. She’s decided that her shifting criteria can be her back feet only have to
be on the baseboard at the bottom of the dog crate to justify her being in her crate.
Now that makes me laugh, but I will tell you when my puppy This! started hanging her feet outside of
the crate that she chose to be in; I made sure that I reinforced her when those feet went in the crate.
And eventually, I know her feet will be in the crate like Tater Salad and Momentum’s, and they are
never going to be like her grandmother Feature’s and be all the way out the crate. Now here’s what I
do. I said, I have no rules other than don’t be under feet. You can’t be near where I’m feeding. But if
you choose to go in the crate, I am going to reinforce you for all your paws being in that crate. And if
your front feet touched the ground, I’m going to stop feeding and just turn and look at you.
And of course, when I stop and look at my dogs when there’s food around, they go, “Oh, game on. Uh,
are we shaping behaviors?” And they’re going to offer different things. They’re going to offer backing
up into that crate, and I’m going to reinforce them. And that’s how I get the happy household with
everybody doing what I’d like them to do. I could shape those puppies right from the time that they
come into my home that this is where I need you to be when feeding time starts, but I don’t really care.
So, Swagger, for example, he stays up in my office when anybody’s preparing food for dogs. He does
not come downstairs to eat until he’s invited.
You actually have to call him to dinner every single time. I know that’s a little weird; most dogs are
going to be right there. But it is what it is, and it’s okay. Because a lot of the rules that I have for my
dogs are for them to have their best life ever. I’m just consciously aware of the reinforcement you get
and how that impacts me.Yes. Life’s a game and Work is Play and Play is Work which means the
things that you do in play; I have to make sure they aren’t breaking any of the rules that I want to
maintain when you’re working with me. All right. Like I don’t allow my dogs on the couch. So, when
you’re playing, you’re not allowed to rip across the couch at any point.
Now that’s not truly working with me. But here’s one, let’s say you, and I are just playing a game of
catch where I’m throwing the Frisbee, or I’m throwing a toy, and it’s informal, and you just want to play,
and I’m just throwing this for you. If at some point you ran out and you said, “I’m going to sit down and
chew on this now.” That wouldn’t be acceptable because in play, we are following the same rules that
we do in work. And if I throw you a toy in work, you’re never allowed to say, “We’re done here. I’m
going to go off and play.” Now obviously, I would never get to a point in work where you were ever tired
or physically unwell that you would want to quit work, but I never want you to say, “Uh, I’m not playing
that game with you anymore.” And so, I would never throw a flying disc or throw a ball or do any kind of
retrieve game to the point where you would want to walk away. I would always quit before the dog
wanted to. Because that’s the way, I maintain the relationship I have with my dog and work. And Work
is Play and Play is Work. I’ll see you next time here on Shaped by Dog.