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Understanding Direct and Indirect Paths to Problems Solving
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I introduced the concept of “Direct and Indirect” approach to problem solving in my last message to you. I want to explore the concept with you further.

When you approach a problem directly, your dog’s understanding of the required behavior should be the same as yours. When you approach a problem indirectly, you solve a problem by causing the correct behavior to happen.

Here are a few examples to further explain direct and indirect approaches to solving problems.

Stepping on the Broad Jump

Imagine that you are practicing the broad jump and your dog steps between the boards. You tell him he’s wrong and take him back to try again. The next time you send him over the broad jump he clears all the boards. You addressed the problem directly using “A Simple Rule to Train By.” You told him he was wrong, took him back to try again, and he offered the correct behavior.

Another approach might be to create more momentum for your dog by placing a treat or toy on the other side of the jump. The next time you send him over, he may clear all the boards. This is an example of an indirect approach for solving the problem. You created momentum, which, in fact, discouraged your dog from stepping in the middle of the jump.

Anticipating a Finish

When a dog starts to anticipate the finish command to the left, an indirect approach to the solution would be to teach the dog to finish to the right to “keep him thinking.” A direct approach would be to teach the dog that he cannot move until he hears a finish command. You might do so by saying his name followed by a sit or stay command and stopping him when he gets up.

Creeping Forward on the Utility Stand

You can probably stop a dog from creeping forward by putting a treat on the ground in front of him. It is possible that he will drop without moving forward once he recognizes the treat as a distraction. This is another example of an indirect approach. This approach may cause the correct behavior, and there is a possibility that it will help the dog form a habit of dropping correctly. However, if the dog could talk, I believe he would say, “I need to drop right here to avoid the treat,” not “Oh, I should never move forward when given a drop signal.”

In this example, an indirect approach may be the best solution available. It may not be possible to change the style of a dog’s drop, especially if he has been dropping that way for a long time. Causing the correct behavior may not completely solve the problem but may make it less likely to occur.

Make a list of the behaviors you are trying to change and the techniques you are using to change them. Are you approaching them directly or indirectly? 


Do you have a problem with a retrieve exercise that you would like to discuss?

Join me for a Problem Solving Webinar on May 16 at 7:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). The cost of the webinar is $20 and includes unlimited access to a video of the webinar on your "My Products.”