How to Train A Positive Interrupter

on 07 March, 2019

If you’re wondering, “What is a positive interrupter and why should I train it?”. Check part I of this series on “The First Thing I Taught My Puppy”. If you’re ready to pull out those tasty treats and get to training an effective positive interrupter, then this is the blog for you. Here are the instructions for making that special sound mean something important to your pup and for utilizing it effectively. Begin this training in a quiet place with your dog near you and minimal distractions around you.

1). Make your kissy sound (or whatever sound you choose) and feed a treat or kibble. Your dog doesn’t have to do anything but hear the sound and eat the treat. You may even have to stick the goodie near pup’s nose the first few times to help them get the idea that the special sound means a treat is coming. This IS how you teach a positive marker, but we quickly move to step two to snuff that application.

This is where some variation on how to train a positive interrupter will come in. Some trainers will require eye contact in this step. However, to me, that’s just training a watch me, name, look or focus cue. So, I do this a little differently with my dogs and clients.

2). After a few repetitions of #1, progress to making the kissy sound and tossing a treat or kibble close to your dog to find. Do that several times. Now your dog thinks the kissy noise means they get to chase a goodie!

3). Once your dog has the hang of hearing the sound and stopping what they are doing to find a treat, begin to mix up your method of delivery. Sometimes, make the sound and bring a treat to them. Sometimes, make the sound and toss the treat away from them to search out (I say “find it” when I want pupster to get things off the ground). Sometimes, when they are catching on, make the sound and wait for them to come to you for the treat. Occasionally, lure them away from what they are doing and deliver the treat when you get them to a different activity that you entice them to instead. Stopping what they are doing will look different in various circumstances. However, they will quickly begin to make the association that there is value in that sound, and stopping what they are doing to pay attention to what comes next is rewarding.

4). Continue training the positive interrupter with low value items or simple distractions. For instance, if your dog starts chewing on the coffee table, make your kissy noise instead of harshly shouting, “eh-eh”. When they stop munching, quickly deliver your treat in one of the ways mentioned above.

Then, manage the environment and give them an appropriate chew so they cannot go right back to the coffee table and start chewing it again. Once they can easily be redirected from the simpler things, then try your positive interrupter for tougher things and eventually at greater distances away from you. For us right now, that would be getting the young puppy to stop chasing, jumping on, and sinking his sharp baby teeth into anything that moves. For dog play groups, it can be utilized to diffuse and redirect rambunctious play before it turns into an altercation. Remember, it gently and safely interrupts behavior and you must follow through with redirection, management, or separation.

Final Tip:

As you train the positive interrupter and begin implementing it in more difficult situations, make sure you are using treats or toys that are loved by your dog. If it’s not amazing to them, then you will lose the effectiveness of your interrupter. This will also happen if you repeatedly use the interrupter and aren’t loaded with worthwhile goodies most of the time. After your dog is consistently and excitedly responding to your use of the positive interrupter, then you can begin to fade the food/treat delivery and use tossed toys, praise and play as a reinforcer.

Positive training brings people and their pups together. It cultivates a cooperative bond of companionship and trust. Teaching a positive interrupter helps avoid the pitfall of using frightening, rude, intimidating or psychological & physically harmful corrections. Enjoy your pooch and be enjoyable for them, too. Happy Training!

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  • I love working with Debra at SmartyPaws. She has creative and insightful ideas to help my dog through various struggles. I've learned a lot about how to approach a problem area and think about it from the dog's perspective and how to motivate through positive training. Deb truly loves dogs and has a unique plan for each client. I also appreciate the email re-cap of our sessions and what I can work on for the next session. This has helped me to break the process down into smaller steps so that my dog and I can make progress as a team. My dog loves Deb. She makes the training process fun. I have bonded with my dog even more through the training process we've gone through. Thanks, Deb!

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