Teach your dog a positive interrupter!


What do we mean by a positive interrupter?

Say your puppy or dog is about to do something we aren't keen on...jump up, chew the table, counter surf, whatever...a conditioned "Positive Interrupter" can help stop the behaviour. This is not about bellowing "no" or "leave it" or indeed "off" at your dog, this is far more effective! Using a "Positive Interrupter" is a kind way to interrupt behaviours that don't startle or scare your pup, it's a cool way of getting their attention.

From your pup's perspective a positive interrupter is an amazing sound that whenever they hear it they stop what they were doing a run to where the sound came from because awesome stuff happens.

From your perspective a positive interrupter is a non scary and friendly noise that you'll make whenever you want your pup to stop what they are doing and you'll then redirect them onto a suitable alternative instead.

What does that look like in action?

So, pup goes to chew your table leg - you make your positive interrupter sound - pup forgets what they were doing and runs over to you as that sound means awesome stuff happens - you treat your pup and then redirect them onto an appropriate chew toy.

No more table chewing...job done!

Why not use "no"?

Usually "no" is used by owners as a punishment (because you want less of something) and this can then result in negative associations with you, which isn't great for your relationship. Using verbal punishment like this can be scary for your pup and can actually make things worse. If you punish pup for doing a "thing", they'll learn that when you're not around they don't get punished...so it's best to wait until you go out to do the "thing" when you can't tell them off.

Try this exercise to train a positive interrupter

Building a super strong connection to the sound:

  1. Pick a quiet spot and sit with your puppy or dog
  2. Make the noise that you want to use...I use "ready" you could choose "yippee" or "hurray" - basically something that you can't make sound gruff or angry.
  3. Pair that noise with yummy stuff - make the noise and then within a second stick a treat in your pup's mouth.
  4. Repeat this pairing several times, in different places over the next week or so and then randomly thereafter.
  5. If you do this enough times your pup with develop a super strong connection with the word so that they won't be able to resist stopping what they were doing and running over to see where the good stuff is!

When you are doing this, the sound must come before the treat (keep the treat out of the picture until the sound is made).  This means pup learns that the sound predicts the treat appearing!  Think of your pup's response to the treat jar, or a rustling packet or a fridge door - they all predict yummy stuff and we want the noise you choose to have the same response.  Now you have conditioned a positive interrupter that can help you interrupt unwanted behaviours before they happen so that you can redirect pup onto doing something more constructive ...and not a "no" has been uttered!

When you redirect onto something more appropriate you can then give positive feedback and rewards to strengthen this alternative behaviour so that you are more likely to get that good behaviour again!

Download the positive interrupter training exercise

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