The Genius of Antecedent Arrangements

While looking around the Internet, I came across an old post by a blogger I used to read when I was much more into the training thing than I am now. Eileen and Dogs was filled with such revolutionary information for me back when I was inhaling dog behaviour tips with my morning coffee. The quality of her wisdom has not diminished. Thought the writer claims she is not a professional trainer, she has absorbed plenty of knowledge through her personal experiences. I wish it was possible to download half of her brain into my own.

Anyway, the post that struck me this week was all about antecedent arrangements. Ms. Eileen has written about this training classification in the past but it sounded too convoluted of a concept for me at the time. I didn’t understand it right away and so I moved on. Reading about it now, with no pressure, I realized this training method is something I have employed all along. I just called it something different.

I don't know the name or breed of this dog, but when I see him, I call him Little Bear. Finding out his real name wouldn't make him less adorable.

I don’t know the name or breed of this dog, but when I see him, I call him Little Bear. Finding out his real name wouldn’t make him less adorable.

In essence, antecedent arrangements mean managing a behaviour as opposed to training a dog to do something different. Does that make sense? In many circles, management is looked down upon as the lazy way of doing something. I’ve always kind of disagreed. In my world, managing is setting the dog up for success. It is also one of the least invasive ways, for the dog, to handle a disagreeable situation.

For instance, I set Shiva up for success by putting a set of blinds on the window of the back door. This way she can’t see the downstairs neighbours coming in and out and doesn’t feel the need to bark at them. This is an antecedent arrangement. In another example, while on a walk this evening, I climbed up a slight hill to put space between Shiva and two approaching strange men. I overheard the men talking about my odd behaviour as they passed but it made Shiva more comfortable and prevented her from barking and lunging.

Shiva really wants to sniff the muddier side of the path where she often finds yucky garbage to scarf

Shiva really wants to sniff the muddier side of the path where she often finds yucky garbage to scarf

Put another way, an antecedent arrangement involves controlling or rearranging a dog’s environment to encourage desirable behaviour.

I am betting you do this too and not just when it comes to your dog. There are lots of ways we can set ourselves up for success. If you are tired of rushing in the morning, you can rearrange your environment by making your lunch the night before and making sure your keys and everything else you will need to grab on your way out the door is all together in one place. If you want to write more often, you can tell your friends you are going to write 100 words every day and ask them to heckle you if you don’t follow through. These are antecedent arrangements. They are things you prepare ahead of time to create scenarios where you are more likely to succeed.

By rewarding her for walking on this side of the path I avoid the difficult situation of making her drop the disgusting trash and she still gets to sniff. I could train her to "leave it" and not pick up the rubbish in the first place but after five years, the antecedent arrangement is much easier for us both.

By rewarding her for walking on this side of the path I avoid the difficult situation of making her drop the disgusting trash and she still gets to sniff. I could train her to “leave it” and not pick up the rubbish in the first place but after five years, the antecedent arrangement is much easier for us both.

This is now my favourite dog training phrase. I find myself looking for them everywhere. It is true that management can become a default of passive trainers. I won’t exclude myself from this. But when thought about in a careful manner, this method can be a great tool for a trainer who strives to use as little force as possible.

Do you employ any antecedent arrangement techniques in your household? What are the ways you set your pets, or yourself, up for success?

2 thoughts on “The Genius of Antecedent Arrangements

  1. I so do this and I love that I know have a name for it!! I think setting your dog up to succeed is anything but passive and it takes a lot of work to figure out the antecedent arrangement in the first place!

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