growing behaviors, it’s a bit like silly putty

When you step up to the plate and start to teach your dog a new behavior, it should feel awkward, and a bit foreign, somewhat exciting, and for sure unformed and unrecognizable. You are growing a behavior, not harvesting the benefits of the behavior just yet.

Growing behaviors is what I refer to as the DISCOVERY stage in training. Starting anything new, you are learning, your dog is learning, and nothing should feel perfect. There may little moments of clarity, brief glimpses of brilliance, but it should feel like silly putty really. Unformed, a bit of working tension, supple at times, able to stretch out and try a new shape, sometimes it works, sometimes you go too far. But you can always bring it back together and start over again! Like silly putty the DISCOVERY stage has forgiveness, because everything is in the shaping stage, not in the final perfect stage.

One of the Grand Canyon size mistakes that I see play out over and over is the ‘rush to the perfect end stage, the harvesting of the usable behavior stage, the first time trying to teach a new behavior’. No room for error, no forgiveness, no acceptance of anything other than the perfect end result, no patience, no playfulness, no team. This is so far from silly putty, eons from discovery, so far from acceptable teaching, and miles and miles from building an understanding and trusting working relationship. There is no growth, no anything, it is simply dysfunctional, unrealistic, and often times that silly little ego has something to do with it.

Teaching takes time. Fact.

Rhumb is now one year old and we are starting a bunch of new tricks I have wanted to do for years with my other dogs but either their size, structure, or age prohibited these specific tricks. So I filed them away.

Rhumb is sprite light, very agile, a good sense of herself on the ground or in the air, great speed, physical prowess like no other, confident in her own skin, and lacks a certain amount of self preservation skills. An awesome trick dog combination!

Here are three short videos over a two week period of time, building the ‘step up or rebound’ behavior. The start looks nothing like the finish, and that is important to note.

Tons of room for error, a healthy dose of forgiveness for both of us, play with a purpose, and short shaping sessions.

If you learn how to grow behaviors, you learn a great deal with HOW to work with your dog as a Team Mate, and then most anything is possible. ~ Nancy

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda Brooks says:

    How do manage to train a dog with others around. If I try this they all want yo join in and it’s chaos.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Linda, I always train my dogs together. If you visit our youtube channel, We have over 390 videos and those f my dogs are all together.

      What you will see is that it is ‘play with a purpose’, meaning it isn’t just for nothing, there is always a teaching moment. But the dog I am working with gets my undivided attention, the others learn that if they wait patiently, then they get a turn, Calm gets you everything, pushy gets you nothing. It is super important, no matter what the waiting dogs are doing, that they do not get any of your attention to start with, or they will learn how to push and then you will push back and then no good training can happen.

      The benefit, my dogs learn from me but also learn a great deal from each other, and they watch each other in work… Here is a super example of one of my super young dogs just starting out in our group environment –


  2. mtwaggin says:

    I was just watching some of our training with you the other day and these are the things I love about you – you get my head in the right space and look at things differently. I have a number of videos where I hear me saying “but blah blah blah” and you saying “yes, but isn’t that great?!” Why I love training with you so much!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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