Hollywood Dogs Have it Right

There’s a saying among dog trainers that for a dog, one time is all the time. Whether it’s good behavior or bad, once a dog learns what it can get away with, it’ll do it forever.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited a friend who is also a big-time animal trainer for film and television. While I was at her home, she introduced me to her Golden Retriever. I recognized his expressive eyes. It was Duke from the Bush Beans commercials we’ve all seen so many times.

My friend is an upbeat and positive person. A trait that works well for training performance animals to shine on command while on the set. While we were chatting, Duke was interactive and well-behaved. I had to ask how she trains him to be such a great actor?

Her answer sounded a lot like a lesson in human potential training.

“When a client hires me to train a dog for a movie, the first thing I want to know is what the dog supposed to do? Like anything else in life, if I don’t understand what’s required, there’s no way I can get a dog to understand it.

Next, I figure out all the actions, behaviors, and skills needed and break them into small chunks. Then we practice until the dog understands how to perform each small step.

Finally, I connect the steps into a chain of behaviors one by one until the dog completed the sequence. Once that happens, we reinforce the training so that we get the same performance every time we ask for it.”

I suppose it can be said that you can achieve any significant goal in the same way. Ask yourself, “What’s that dog supposed to do?” Then get busy practicing the pieces until you get what you want.

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