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Skills for Every Day

How to Cure a Cat-Chasing Dog

When I brought Mimi the Burmese home at the age of 12 weeks I was quite worried about my older dog. I felt sure that my young poodle, Misha, and the new kitten would rapidly become friends and playmates (which they did). However Twitchett, a 9-year-old border terrier, represented a serious threat. In fact, one senior animal behaviorist had e-mailed me advising that I rethink my plan of getting a kitten.

Teaching "Off" with Positive Reinforcement

Self control is one of the most critical skills a dog needs to learn, and it is a skill that is required multiple times a day. Dogs are expected to refrain from picking up something forbidden when it appears within reach. Some examples that come to mind include: dropped medication, chicken bones, the hamster, dead birds, Granny's hearing aid, Susie's favorite stuffed toy, the last remaining baby soother...

How to Prevent Resource Guarding in a Multiple-dog Household

Resource guarding among dogs is an extremely common and normal behavior. Dogs are pre-programmed not to want to share valued resources with others. For pet dogs, resources may include food, toys, or even the owner's attention. In most households, resource guarding is limited to simple communication, but sometimes the behavior can escalate in frequency or intensity and injuries can occur. If you are ever concerned about aggressive behavior in your dog, related to resource guarding or not, it is best to contact your vet or other qualified professional for help before proceeding on your own.

What Makes a Reward Rewarding?

"Reward your dog." We've heard this many, many times in many formats. It takes a lot of experience to get the best from a reward—where the reward delivers everything the dog needs in order to offer the behavior again and again, with passion.

Yes, But Does This Work with Kids? How TAGteach Made a Difference at School and Home

Editor's note:
Karen Pryor introduces Stephanie Tagtow's success story.

I hear this question often: "Yes, but does it work with kids?"

Do you think of clicker training as something that's good for dogs and other animals, but not right for people? The principles of learning are always the same. The technology of training without punishment, and with a marker, works with any organism with a nervous system.

Adapting positive reinforcement training to human problems just requires slightly different methods. For example, you can tell your learner what you will click for. We call these special techniques for humans TAGteaching. We call the marker sound a TAG. We call the criterion being clicked a TAG point. Beyond that, the training is the same: being sensitive to reinforcement choice, breaking behavior down into successful units, creative thinking, and timing.

The outcome? Just what you'd expect. The learner is thrilled. Long-standing problems vanish, to be replaced with good new behaviors. Even the beginning teacher has success, so the teacher is thrilled, too.

The story below is a great example of TAGteaching—see what you think! Is there anything going on in your life that could use a little tagging?