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Bank Robber Principle

Bank Robber Principle and the rule Training Every Second - “Am I training the dog right now or is the dog training me?” Are very closely intertwined.

We know that when training a dog they will make mistakes and as they begin to understand what we want two things can happen:

1. The dog understands and now respects our wishes and follows through.

2. The dog understands and thinks "what is the down side if I don't do as asked?".

 Imagine if there were guys robbing the bank and the cops showed up and the cops said, "Stop robbing the bank!" and the robbers stopped. Then the cops said, "Ok, you guys are free to go."  If that was the worst thing that happened when you tried to rob the bank it wouldn't stop too many people from trying to rob the bank. You are more likely to be shot or taken to jail. This deters a lot of people in the first place.

 We have two options when Bank Robber Principle presents itself:

1. Positive - Make the Positive Behaviour much more fun and exciting to do (work for food, fetch / tug, attention)

2. Negative - Make the Negative Behaviour less desirable (include a consequence for the negative behaviour such as a squirt in the mouth with Bitter Apple Spray).

3. We can also do a combination of those two which brings us to the next Principle: $100 or….

Let us give you a few examples of Bank Robber Principle if going the Positive Route doesn’t work:

Example 1: Stealing an item - Some dogs may continually try to steal an item, let’s use a sock as an example here. If the dog goes to steal the sock and the human yells “Hey!” and the dog may drop the sock or continue on with it. The dog may continually go back for the sock if the worst thing that ever happened was “Hey!”. A consequence we like to use for dogs is Bitter Apple Spray. If the dog steals something you don’t want them to have you could say “Hey!” and then go give the dog a little squirt of bitter apple in the mouth, it doesn’t take much. The dog may think stealing socks tastes bad and then stop doing it since the consequence is a higher motivation to not steal then the motivation of getting the sock. Some people like to use a squirt water bottle or shaker can with pennies. There is also force based consequences as well.

Example 2: A lady we worked with said her dog was bad for jumping up at the counter. If the dog jumped up she would elbow the dog off and say “no” and then she would say “good dog” and give the dog a treat. That dog continued to jump at the counter because he was being rewarded for jumping. The dog basically says “I know how to get a treat out of my human. I jump up at the counter, they say no and elbow me off and then they tell me I am a good dog and treat me.” This is a part of the rule Training Every Second - Am I training the dog right now or is the dog training me? In this case you can guarantee the dog is training the human and not the other way around. We instructed the lady to give the dog a squirt of bitter apple for jumping and not reward with a treat once the dog got down. That broke the habit of jumping at the counter within a day.

Dogs are very intelligent creatures and excellent at picking up on patterns. If the pattern is rewarding, the dog will continue to do the behaviour.

Example 3: A lady we worked with called back a year after she had done training with us and said everything was going excellent except for one thing, her dog loved to roll in poop, the smellier the better. This lady would take her dog swimming every morning at the river and then on the way back the dog would go roll in poop. She said he only used to roll in poop if he came across it but now he actively seeks it out. So here was the issue: The dog loved the river and on their way back to the vehicle he would roll in poop. The lady would then take the dog back to the river to wash him off because she didn’t want him getting poop smell all over her van. This lady knew that she was inadvertently rewarding a negative behaviour. The dog would think “I love the river, I know that if I roll in poop I get to go swim in the river again!” Here was the other issue. If the lady saw her dog about to roll in poop she would call him. He would roll in poop and then come to her. She thought she couldn’t scold him for that because he would think that if he came to her he would get in trouble. If she tried to call him over and treat him it would still increase the amount he wanted to attempt rolling in poop (still being rewarded for a negative behaviour).

So she came to see us again and what we did to fix this problem was use a Dogtra IQ remote training collar. This collar has the option for a shock or vibrate. It has 100 levels whereas most remote collars are 0-5 or 0-10 which we find to be too much of a jump. With the Dogtra IQ you can really fine tune the level. We had her put the remote collar on her dog for a few days without turning it on. You want the dog to think it is just a regular collar. When she came to see us we put the collar on him and took him on a long line to a pen where we had horses. There was a bunch of horse poop in that pen which was prime for rolling in. As soon as we got into the pen we kept him close enough to where he couldn’t get into any poop but could sniff around. We turned the collar to Level 2, then 4, then 6 and kept going up 2 at a time until we found the level he acknowledged. The way he acknowledged it was a look of “what was that?” This level was 38. We then had him walk around the pen on a long line and just as he was about to roll in poop we pressed the “nick” at level 38. He made that look again of “what was that?” He then walked to another pile of poop and just as he was about to roll we pressed nick again, same response. We did that 3 times in that pen and then you could see him think “there is something weird that happens when I try to roll in poop here, I am not going to roll in any more poop here”. We then took him to another pen with some fresh horse poop. He tried to roll once and we pressed “nick”. That is when you could see him put the connection together and realized whenever he went to roll in poop something weird happened so he stopped doing it.

The correction has to be made several times for the dog to understand why they are being corrected. This is why you want to do it at a low level, one that just makes the dog look around wondering what that was. If you do it at too high of a level the dog can become fearful and think the whole area is dangerous to be in. You don’t want any yelps or cries or fear out of the dog when doing this.

The issue the lady had was timing the correction for when the behaviour happened. In this case it was really hard to use a reward to train the dog out of this behaviour since he enjoyed swimming so much. Since the remote collar worked the dog stopped rolling in poop. According to the Training Phase vs Management Phase he had to wear the collar for another 2 months of perfect behaviour before he was allowed to go without the collar when out on their morning walk. If he made a mistake and she had to press the “nick” button, that set Management Phase back to Day 1. He needed to go a perfect 2 months before the collar didn’t need to be on him anymore.

Hopefully that gives you an idea of what Bank Robber Principle is. It happens all the time, it has happened to us more times than we can count. Now we really know what to look for. Trainers that just use reward are particularly more susceptible to coming across Bank Robber Principle than a trainer that just uses force. You don’t need to be excessive in your correction. The timing has to be exactly when the behaviour is happening.