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The “jolly routine”

Extract from Aunty Kaye’s Doggy Dictionary of Training and Behaviour

The “Jolly Routine” is the name given by William E. Campbell to the technique he recommends for dealing with various behaviour problems. The idea is that the owner, acting as leader, takes the initiative in a situation and communicates to the dog the appropriate emotional reaction or attitude. The dog is influenced by the person’s emotions, and if the emotion is appropriate, the behaviour will follow suit. This is called the “interpretive factor”.

The power of this insight is especially obvious when things go wrong. For example, a dog is not given enough guidance, reacts in an over-excited or fearful way, the owner becomes stressed, and the next time they are in a similar situation (for example, meeting a strange dog, or having a visitor come to the door) the owner becomes apprehensive about how the dog will react, the dog picks up on the owner’s anxiety, and feels threatened, becomes agitated and a vicious cycle is set up. Tension, agitation, fear and anxiety can be communicated to the dog as a result of the owner yelling or holding the lead tight, or being excessively comforting in an anxious way. The dog learns to react with increasing fear, hostility or aggression. To reverse this, the owner must take the initiative, and put on a display of acting calm, happy and relaxed, to communicate to the dog that the situation is not threatening, and a friendly attitude is the most appropriate one. Even if you feel a little foolish, don’t worry – be happy. Bounce around, throw a party, bring out a toy and do anything to get your dog’s tail wagging.

Counter-conditioning by means of the “jolly routine” or “bar open” to change the dog’s underlying emotional associations with the object of aggression is one of the most important tools in the behavioural trainer’s repertoire.

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