The Principle of Availability


I recently came across another blog that talked about the “Principle of Availability”. Unfortunately, I forgot to bookmark that blog and I can’t remember which blog it was from. I loved the idea, so I have to talk about it. Please feel free to share if you find out where it came from!

The “Principle of Availability” is what a dog  perceives is and is not available to them. You can teach a dog that the only “available” resources come from you and that anything else (for example: squirrels, spoiled food on the drive way, or other dogs) is unavailable. This perception of availability comes from lots of time practicing “leave it”.

When teaching a dog “leave it”, you teach that dog that the object of their desire is unavailable and that if they leave it alone, something else will be made available to them. After many repetitions, the dog begins to understand that things on the ground or else where are to be ignored and if they redirect their attention to the owner they will be rewarded.

What I really enjoyed was the realization that this was really the basis for a reliable recall. If your dog sees you as the only accessible resource, instead of chasing the squirrel or eating bad food on the ground, your dog will redirect to you for its desires. You are the available resource and everything else is inaccessible.

Here is a video that shows how to teach your dog to “leave it”.

One of my favorite trainers, Shade Whitesel, uses this concept with her IPO protection sport dogs. She recently raised a new puppy so we got to observe how she teaches this to her dogs. She starts off with a basic leave it, then increases distractions and uses different values of reinforcement through out the process. She does an amazing job of proofing this behavior so that it becomes second nature to her dogs. The dogs eventually learn impressive impulse control and always wait to hear from her if they can access something they want. (Which, as you can imagine, is a very important skill for dogs in protection sports!) All her techniques allow the the dog to figure things out for himself. That means the dogs is always prevented from making the wrong choice instead of punished if they choose wrong.

This is an exercise I need to work on a lot more with my Corgi puppy who has reached his prime adolescent stage! #crazycorgi

Does your dog orient to you before going after something they want? What was your method of teaching leave it?