Last month, we thought about the Awesome Power of Associations in Dog Training. This month we will add to that with a different use of associations in dog training. You might remember that dogs form associations by noticing that one event precedes another. For example, the doorbell rings, and someone comes in the door. A smart dog will learn quickly that the sound is a precursor to that particular event. Once the dog realizes the associations with the sound, the sound alone will cause the dog to change their mental state and their behavior.
What are Event Blocks?
Event Blocks allow us to manipulate a dog’s mental state and behavior through the intelligent use of association. What is an event block? One of my mentors is a dog trainer named Jay Jack. I consider him a mentor because I have watched him for years from a distance and learned a lot from the content that he produced. We know each other, but we have not had many interactions.
Anyway, Jay talks about “Windows of Opportunity.” Event Block is my term for “Windows…” An Event Block is a time set aside to practice an activity. The Event Block should have a clear beginning and a clear end. An Event Block can be used to do any activity. You can have a “play block,” a “free time block,” a “communication block,” or a “rest block.” We can even create sub-blocks. Play block-fetch, Play block-food game, or play block tug-a-war. “Communication block-obedience,” or “communication block-tricks.”
What are Some Examples of an Event Block?
The important part is that each block has a clear beginning and end. I copied Jay, so before I play tug with my dog, I say, “You ready, You ready, look what I got, Take it.” When I say, “You ready, You ready, look what I got,” that is a prediction that I will next say, “Take it.” “Take it” is the start of the tug game. Once the game starts, the dog and I are both fully engaged in play. Jay talks a lot about developing games. I might address that later, but now once I say, “you ready,” my dog’s mood changes to one conducive to play.
Another example is from one of my mentors, Kayce Cover. She teaches perception modification, or how to change the way your dog perceives the world. She teaches ways to relax and calm a dog down. Later she teaches the dog to associate being calm with a word. Her word is “Easy.” When I am ready to practice calming my dog down, I say, “You ready to relax? Relax.” When I say, “You ready to relax?” that predicts me saying “relax” and the start of our relaxation techniques. Like the play precursor, the relaxation precursor changes my dog’s mood because she knows what will happen next, and she gets herself ready to relax.
I always end Event Blocks the same way. I say, “Enough.” Like Jay when he finishes his tug game. It does not matter what event we are practicing. When I say enough, the block ends.
How Can We Apply Event Blocks to Training?
Say my dog is reactive to other dogs. When I am at home and want to engage my dog in personal play, that is, play without toys or food, I say, “You Ready to play play, you ready to play play” Then we play the got-you game. “The got-you game” is a game I made up that my dog loves. Too hard to describe here, but my dogs get excited to play the got-you game.
So I know my dog is reactive to dogs, meaning that when my dog sees a dog, her mind gets excited, and her behavior follows and agrees with her thoughts. So she is excited and reactive, jumping, pulling, and barking. My goal is to change that behavior or to change her mind. So I see the dog down the street before she sees the dog and starts thinking reactive thoughts. I say, “You ready to play play? You ready to play play?” and my dog, who loves play play, starts to engage with me. If my association and game are strong enough, she will not even see the other dog because she is so engaged with me and the “got-you game.” When we pass the dog, I say, “Enough,” and we continue with the walk.
Contact Argos Dog Training
I hope this is helpful. If you need professional dog training services, feel free to contact Argos Dog Training to set up a consultation. We will work with you to assess your dog’s needs and decide which program would be best.
Enjoy Your Dog!!!