How Would Karen Handle This?

I love it when clients ask and answer this question
By Karen B. London PhD, October 2017

It’s a great joy to me when a client tells me, “So I just thought, ‘How would Karen handle this?’” and I heartily agree with the way they answered this question. Not only am I excited to hear that a critical training moment went well, but I’m thrilled to realize that the person is thinking like a trainer.

Here are some examples of situations in which clients have reported that they did what they thought I would have done. . . and they were right!

Shadow grabbed her wallet off the counter. My client knelt down cheerfully at a distance and she came over and willingly traded it for a toy.

Bono bolted through the door and the person remained composed enough to call him to come in happy voice, then ran in the opposite direction (away from the dog). Once Bono reached him, he reinforced that beautiful recall with a stuffed Kong pulled from the freezer.

Riley did something adorable—crossing his paws while lying down—and his guardian thought to click and treat to capture that behavior.

Willow resisted getting into the car, so the man made it easier for her by putting a blanket that she loves inside the car and by getting into the car first as an additional way to make it more appealing.

Benford was at risk of being taken by surprise by another dog on a walk. His guardian noticed that dog first thanks to his constant vigilance. He avoided the situation entirely and protected his dog by heading the other way and hiding behind a car until the other dog had passed by.

I often advise my clients about strategies for responding to unexpected situations, including being prepared, but in the moment, they still have to make decisions in real time and then carry out the plan. I love it when it works out for dogs and people alike!

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.