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Train for Bad


Techniques Conditioning > Train for Bad

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When a subject is autonomously indulging in unwanted actions, work to make this action conditioned, so they only do it upon command rather than when they choose.

First examine the action and understand the cues that lead to the unwanted actions, such as when you stand up and the dog barks. Then add your own cue. You know you have completed the training when the dog barks on cue.

One way this method can be instigated is by joining in. This adds an intermediate stage where you have joint ownership. In some cases with people this will make them give up the activity altogether if it was done as an act of rebellion. In other cases it brings you closer together, making your 'takeover' more acceptable.

If the action is always unwanted, then once you have it under control, cue it less and less until it becomes extinct. If the action is tolerable within constraints such as initiation and duration, you can also use it as a reward.


A dog often barks. Its owner trains it to bark when the owner says 'bark'. The owner also trains it to 'cease'. This is done initially as a kind of game which the dog enjoys. In time, when the dog starts to bark the owner just has to say 'cease'. Later, it never barks except on command.

A young child likes having a wild play time, running around and shouting. Their parent starts by joining in, starting with a yell of 'play time'. Later, the parent yells 'play time' and runs around. The child joins in. At other times the child tries to initiate this by yelling 'play time' themselves but the parent does not join in when this happens, saying 'it's not play time yet'. Initially a little afterwards the parent starts play time, but then makes it later and later after the child's first request. Eventually, play time only happens when the parent starts it.


This is a fairly creative way of handling unwanted actions, initially encouraging it, then taking control over when it happens, and finally reducing its frequency to zero or otherwise using it as a deliberate motivational system. If the subject enjoys the action, as they likely do, it can be a way to allow them to express themselves at appropriate times.

A variation of this method is to train for reversal, for example training a dog to get off furniture once it has jumped up. If you catch this quickly, the jumping up then becomes the cue for jumping down immediately and they may do this before long without you having to ask them.

See also



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