Notes on "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor

Pawsitivity staff is always continuously improving, and our results prove it. Here are our notes about 8 ways to change behavior. Always start with LIMA (least intrusive, minimally aversive.)

  1. Management (Dog getting into the garbage? One option is to put the lid on the can.)
  2. Reinforce everything that is not the undesired behavior. (With people, you could reinforce everything that is not a complaint.)
  3. Put the behavior on cue (The classic example is barking.)
  4. Train an incompatible behavior (Mat training is great for preventing dogs from begging at the table, for instance). It's much better to train a dog to DO something, rather than try to train a dog to NOT do something.
  5. Extinction (not used a lot, but it's important not to accidentally reward the wrong behavior.) It's often best to just reward a different, incompatible behavior.
  6. Negative reinforcement (a classic example is a seat-belt buzzer, although a leash is a more subtle example)
  7. Punishment (this is a last resort, and rarely used, because it causes the side-effects, including fear and aggression. Also it doesn't work well because "punishment delayed doesn't work at all")
  8. Give the animal away (overly-aggressive dogs are often not appropriate for families, for instance)


  • There is also the "Look at That" game by Leslie McDevitt, which actually changes motivation (as well as behavior). This is a tricky technique, and requires a dog trainer to teach someone how to do it.
  • "Click for calm" is similar.