Use it or Lose it

Clients often ask me why their dog no longer comes galloping across the park when they call them to “come,” or why their dog doesn’t lie down after the first request anymore, or, the most common complaint, is that their pup used to sit every time and now he only sits for a cookie. Why does this happen?

Quick answer: Behavior that is reinforced will be repeated and any behavior that is ignored will be reduced.

Explanation: “Use it or lose it” is one of my favorite training mottos because it is perfectly true: If you don’t use it, you and your dog will lose it! In order for your dogs training to being reliable, fresh and timely, you must always continue to reinforce the behavior. Reinforcement or reward does not always mean feeding cookies. It means that you take the role of a parent and control access to all your dog’s resources. Before you give your dog something they want, ask for a polite behavior such as “Sit” or “Down,” and then give them the reward.

For example lets look at the behavior “Sit.” You could ask your dog to sit:

  • Before you throw his ball
  • Before you open the front door
  • Before you clip on the leash
  • Before you play tug

A few behaviors a day can keep the dog trainer away 🙂








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