“Dogs are here to teach us. And if you don’t open your eyes to that, you’re going to miss life lessons.”
– Susan Garrett
Susan Garrett (@susangarrett) is an incredible dog trainer. She has a B.Sc. in animal science, and for more than two decades has been one of the most consistently successful competitors in the sport of dog agility.
Susan has been on the podium of the world and national championship events more than 50 times, winning those events a total of 38 times. She was of great help to me when I first adopted Molly, my own pup, and her book Shaping Success (The Education of an Unlikely Champion) was selected as the 2005 dog training and behavior book of the year.
Susan is a champ not only for her competitive track record, but for her ability to convey concrete tips and recommendations for:
- The most critical exercises for your dog
- The three types of reinforcement
- How to use crates properly
- What you should do in the first 24 hours of adopting a puppy
- How training a dog is like training an Olympic athlete
- And much, much more!
We discuss every facet of behavioral modification and conditioning, which applies to much more than dog training. These are techniques that work on everyone from chickens to cats to irritating in-laws.
If you only have 5 minutes, you’ll want to learn why negative reinforcement isn’t as effective as positive reinforcement — even for people.
I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Want to hear another podcast about powerful communication? — Listen to my interview with Malcolm Gladwell. In this episode, we discuss routines, habits, and tools, how to make your stories relatable, and why he eats as little as possible in the morning (stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Connect with Susan Garrett:
- Shaping Success (The Education of an Unlikely Champion) by Susan Garrett
- What is the sport of dog agility?
- Recall Training with the Dogs with Susan Garrett
- Orijen “fancy” treats
- Clicker dog training system
- Pop up dog crates
- Crate Games and the Question of Value by Susan Garrett, Say Yes! Dog Training
- Restrained Recalls — Recallers Game Day 3, Hiva the Dane & Hani the Border
- 30′ training leads
- Collar Grab Game — Recallers Game Day 1, Hiva the Dane & Hani the Border
- Pavlov’s Dogs by Saul McLeod, Simply Psychology
- Call Once, Romeo & Juliet
- Stella & Chewy Freeze Dried Dandy Lamb and Rabbit dinner patties
- Effective Triggers and the Transfer of Value by Susan Garrett, Say Yes! Dog Training
- Before You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar
- The 10,000 Swing Kettlebell Workout by Dan John, T Nation
- The Journey, Susan Garrett
- A toy that simulates mother’s heartbeat can be comforting for a new puppy.
- Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor
- X pens
- The Best Animal Trainers in History: Interview with Bob and Marian Bailey — Part 1 and Part 2 by Dr. Sophia Yin
- Chicken Camp with Bob Bailey — Discrimination Workshop Evaluation, Elsa Blomster
- Extracts from Patient Like the Chipmunks by Bob Bailey & Marian Breland-Bailey
- What Is a Skinner Box? by Kendra Cherry, Verywell
- Jason Nemer — Inside the Magic of AcroYoga
- Classic KONG Dog Toy
- Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer
- Susan recommends Gentle Leader headcollars.
- Dog Tricks: Command, Safety, and Vanity with Molly and me
- Dog Breakfast Tips with Molly and me
- Dog Tips and Training with Molly and me
- What is the sport of dog agility? [08:27]
- What separates a good handler from a great handler? [09:37]
- What differentiates Susan’s approach to training from others? [10:26]
- Susan contrasts choice-based training with punishment-based and reinforcement-based training. [11:32]
- Susan explains how her ItsYerChoice game introduces the premise of choice-based training to dogs. [13:47]
- The three big reinforcements for a dog. [16:11]
- The first thing to identify: where’s the value for the dog? [16:24]
- Explaining the reinforcement (or reward) zone. [18:03]
- “It’s a crowded bar and you’ve got to tip with twenties!” illustrates a technique vs. incentive issue. [19:09]
- Why crate games build the foundation for successful training. [23:40]
- Explaining restrained recalls. [28:50]
- What is the collar grab game? [31:17]
- Is “call once” a relative or variant of restraint recalls? [34:37]
- Giving the dog a choice is just one way behaviors are shaped. [35:50]
- How I reacquainted myself with Molly after a long absence. [39:23]
- Susan explains transfer of value and why you shouldn’t always make food available. [42:10]
- The dos and don’ts of getting a new puppy (and how it ties in with trying to do 10,000 kettlebell swings in 28 days). [45:10]
- Our dogs are just trying to help us become better dog trainers. [47:55]
- Susan’s first 24 hours with a new puppy — and why she’s never had a puppy wake her up after the first night. [50:12]
- Potty training: why Susan always raises dogs to do their business on a leash, and how giving that “business” a name helps the process. [52:44]
- Clicker training: it works for dogs, marine mammals, and Olympic divers. [55:28]
- Why negative reinforcement isn’t as effective as positive reinforcement — even for people. [1:02:59]
- How do you avoid doling out negative reinforcement when bad behavior is exhibited? [1:11:03]
- Susan explains how the San Diego Zoo got a troublemaking, diabetic mandrill to love getting his blood drawn. [1:14:10]
- X pen versus tethering. [1:20:24]
- What is jackpotting, and what does science say about its value in training? [1:23:39]
- Susan talks about a couple of her mentors and how they’ve contributed to the scientific study of animal behavior. [1:24:35]
- Why do chickens make excellent subjects for a trainer trying to understand positive reinforcement? [1:30:28]
- “Dogs are brilliant at figuring out patterns of reinforcement.” [1:31:30]
- The three Ds: distance, duration, and distractions. [1:34:31]
- Why did I stop using the bell on the door, and how can I reintroduce it by shaping Molly’s behavior? [1:36:54]
- What are some of the common mistakes Susan sees people making? [1:40:04]
- Is there a way to calm down your dog? [1:42:32]
- Susan talks about her “dog-free” vacation to Ireland. [1:45:23]
- Most people try to train from the world of “don’t,” but dogs only understand “do.” [1:49:02]
- Even AcroYoga uses positive reinforcement. [1:49:56]
- Striving to become a better trainer for the benefit of your dog makes you a better person. [1:50:27]
- Tools to bring home for your dog before you adopt. [1:51:20]
- Why Susan advocates online learning. [1:55:24]
- What kind of training does Susan recommend staying away from? [1:56:13]
- Ian Dunbar
- Ivan Pavlov
- Greg Louganis
- Gary Priest
- Bob Bailey
- Marian Breland Bailey
- B.F. Skinner
- Jason Nemer
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.