What Would You Like Your Dog To Do Instead?

Neuroscience tells us that our minds are constantly growing and forming with our emotions, experiences, genes & knowledge. As a new experience occurs and is practiced, our brains rewire accordingly. This is the ethos behind teaching the behaviour that you would like the animal to do instead (this can be applied to dogs or cats). Dr Karen Overall has some great protocols in her book (the manual of clinical behavioural medicine).

Here is a link to her book, it is an essential bible for any behaviourist:

We have adapted our own protocols based on the individual dogs needs but the ethos is still the same. Teaching and rewarding a reliable recall, sit, stay and release is an absolute must on walks. We have taught our dogs to defer to us by training them to come to us when they see another dog, person or anything they are unsure of. This in our mind is an essential tool to prevent the animal from feeling that he needs to react to the situation himself. This is their default behaviour now, whenever there is anything vaguely novel in the environment. It gives a chance to gauge the safety of the situation and then to release or stay as appropriate (also, it is amazing to teach this around livestock). We have two courses to set up recall as a potential behaviour modification tool. Please go to: 7 Day Recall Survival Guide (owner/enthusiast/professional) Or, Recall Instructor Course


The priority of emotion that an animal must experience to enable him to learn and make good decisions are that he feels safe and secure. According to Siegal 2012 minds are complex systems, which are constrained in their activity by neuronal connections, which are determined by constitution and experience..  To understand more about the neural system involved in building resilience please go to: Neural Mechanisms Of Resilience & Its Role In Dog Training.

Animals need secure environments that are stimulating, engaging and nurturing. This is how we help to build brains. Evidence shows that dogs see us as family. They can recognise our facial expressions, respond to our voices and they can read our body language. They have a primitive form of empathy towards us called emotional contagion. This means they have the ability to pick up on small chemical, physical and sensory signals in the environment and they will react accordingly to mimic the emotional state of the sender. Please view our course: Emotional Contagion & Empathy, The Neural Mechanisms & Evidence In Dog Behaviour for more information on the neural mechanisms of empathy. We discuss the way that dogs understand “do as I do” training, which also has some great developmental implications in dog training and behaviour, to enhance relationships.

As dogs see us as their caregivers then it is our duty to help them make good decisions. We do this through training. If your dog is starting to show signs of discomfort in situations then it is a good idea to start thinking “what would I like him to do instead”. This way, in the presence of this arousing situation, he can defer to you and then you have provided him with an opportunity to gain rewards. Simples!

An environment which is supportive and somewhat predictable in this way is essential to building strong relationships through effective communication. This is crucial for a developing brain to help optimize its development. According to Siegel 2012 this will help the brain organise itself better as the brain matures. The Mirror Neuron system in the brain is essential for the animal to be able to pick up on social cues, to emulate others and learn about his environment. We discuss this in various articles (see below) and in our emotional contagion course. If you are interested in reading more about puppy development please see: The Neuroscience of puppy development. Start before you get him home.

We have developed the puppy 7 day survival guide to help set your pup with the right start from the word go. This is designed to help make his environment more predictable. To set him up to succeed in potty training, being left, enjoying enrichment activities and setting the scene for you to reward all increments towards the desired behaviour: 7 Day Recall Survival Guide (owner/enthusiast/professional) Or, if you are interested in teaching puppy socialisation and training classes: Puppy Training Classes Instructor Course. The courses contain posters from the essential dog trainers resource pack for you to use with clients, on yourself and there are step-by-step behaviour interaction videos explaining to owners the types of dog-dog or dog-human interactions to watch out for.

This is our scale of aggression (part of the Essential Training Resource Guide)  

The way an animal responds to an event that it perceives is stressful and how long it lasts, depends on the individual.

Some of the factors that come into play are:

  • Other stressors (resulting in an accumulation sometimes termed “trigger stacking”)
  • Genetic predisposition,
  • Context,
  • Duration
  • Previous bad experiences
  • Possibly punishment (or suppression) of behaviour,
  • Lack of training or impulse regulation,
  • Early adverse experiences (particularly in the critical stages) to allow appropriate development of behavioural resilience
  • Lack of predictability

If the system of stress is constantly activated, this can be toxic to the brain’s architecture and it harms the organs of body. Brain connections are lost through stress, this means that the animal is not able to utilise his brain properly and he will not learn effectively (Cozolino 2013).

Bergin & Bergin 2009 noted that secure attachment (see our articles on: Attachment, Development and Emotion- A Neurobiological Perspective & The Relationship Between Stress, Aggression & Resilience) means that there is greater emotional regulation. Less disorder of conduct and better learning ability. Gottman 2007 noted that there are fewer infectious illnesses when there is better emotional regulation.

We do not want the neural system of the brain ( particularly the mirror system) to be used up in defensive actions. The body becomes primed for fear and arousal, rather than learning. The way the brain copes with the lack in security surrounding attachment, means that the brain is set up more for battle, rather than effective communication strategies..

So, with this in mind, we just could not resist adding this new poster to our resource pack.

what would you like your dog to do instead

Access to this and all of our other courses is for life. Each course gives you a personalised certificate and our courses are eligible for CEU’s.

Please go to: Essential Training Resource Guide

The idea of this pack is to spread important messages regarding training, development and behaviour among your clients,

We have training, habituation, socialisation & awareness posters. Feel free to put our posters up in your vets, schools, training halls etc. Or, you might just want to hand them to your clients.  Each poster can be downloaded as many times as you like.

This pack is suitable for:

  • Trainers
  • Behaviourists
  • Vets
  • Rescues
  • Establishments that allow dogs
  • Schools

Please note: We will be adding to this all of the time and we will provide updates to let you know as soon as a new poster has been added. Please make sure you check back from time to time to check for new posters.

These are some of the current posters in the pack:

simply_beh_sch_1_1_simple-steps1o_d4e722e9bc67c8b2_001 (1)Training_Schedule_pdfpotty-stan1o_56532e4a28e32ec2_001








We hope you understand how important it is to keep the environment predictable, stress free and secure. This, coupled with appropriate positive training, enrichment & learning will help strengthen the relationship and communication between you and your dog (or cat). This will help him to make better decisions.

Published Articles:

Courses & Seminars:

Our Employers: Marmalade & Tango

positive reinforcement training in dogs

 Please Click On: Authors Biography, to find out more.

Upcoming Articles:

(Clicks will not work until article is published)

Upcoming Courses:

  • Neuroscience Of Puppy Development- A short course to cover the neural mechanisms of puppy development.
  • The Neuroscience Of Emotions In Training/Behaviour – A course covering the basics to help you understand and consider affective states to help you approach your training from the emotional perspective of the animal.
  • Clinical Aggression (protocols, understanding, training) A practical course, covering all of the latest research to give you a science based approach to understanding these challenges.
  • 6 Week Gundog Course- This covers the basics to set your dog up with the foundations. This will get him ready to go into the field. We use clicker training and science methods only. We help you build your dog from reliable foundations of trust and a solid bond.
  • How To Market Your Animal Business- How to win, maintain, grow your business with effective marketing & business development strategies. How to work as a team with your client to build solution based understanding and employ realistic & effective protocols. We will cover an interactive role play (workshop) to help develop your “influencing” skills and to help build your confidence in client based environments. How to go that extra mile but making sure you get a return on your efforts and reduce time wasted.
  • Resource Guarding- A working protocol with practical tips. This will cover dog-dog & dog-human resource management and modification techniques to build trust and build positive associations

 Email: info@simplybehaviour.com

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