Sarah Owings
Sarah Owings

Control Is An Illusion Pt. 2

An opportunity to Deepen Your Understanding of Stimulus Control

course has started
1 April 2020


Control Is An Illusion Pt. 2 – Applying Skills & Deepening Understanding

Now that you’ve learned to re-frame the concept of impulse control in terms of stimulus control, and have practiced some core skills with your dogs, it’s time to fade-in more complex environmental stimuli and challenges.


The goal of this class will be to provide graduates of Pt. 1 with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of stimulus control and errorless teaching. Curriculum will be centered around the development of independent projects, but participants may also opt. to use their coaching time to complete or expand upon exercises from Pt. 1 as well, such as:

  • Three Act Training Structure with Brave Learning Self-Review
  • Bread-crumb Trail Teaching Progressions
  • Clarifying Contexts: When to Offer Behavior and When to Wait for Cues
  • Zen Bowl Games
  • Advanced Shopping
  • Joyous “Wait There” Applied to Real Life
  • Fade in Protocol

This class will have a lot less reading and step by step guidelines, and a lot more doing it for yourselves! Come prepared to set some actionable goals, to design your own training plans, and to dive headfirst into the cycle of performance—feedback—revision.


Let the brave learning begin!


NOTE: The prerequisite for Pt. 2 is Control Is An Illusion Pt. 1. Auditors of Pt. 1 are welcome to join if you were able to keep up with the material, and feel like you and you dogs are ready for increased challenges. You can also use Pt. 2 to continue to work on Pt. 1 exercises in a more targeted way. Mastery is not required!


  • course lasts 6 weeks
  • lectures
  • access to other Premium member's threads
  • video tutorials
  • certificate of attendance
  • 24 hours, 7 days per week access to course materials
  • access to Tromplo: students group on Facebook
  • access to materials after the course is finished
  • 4 points to spend on future purchases




  • course lasts 6 weeks
  • lectures
  • access to other Premium member's threads
  • video tutorials
  • certificate of attendance
  • 24 hours, 7 days per week access to course materials
  • access to Tromplo: students group on Facebook
  • access to materials after the course is finished
  • 15 points to spend on future purchases
  • 12 minutes videos per week
  • tutor's feedback
  • homework
  • unlimited contact with tutor


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Reviews for this course

2020-04-04 21:06:00

Hi Sarah,

I apologize in advance for this novel of a  post, it’s a bit of a brain dump but I wanted to share as much as possible since I think it’s all relevant.

After giving it some thought, I think I would like to work on improving Finn’s behavior while I’m teaching. First, a bit of background:

I used to take Finn to work with me frequently. I built up a long duration stationing behavior that was easy for him when it was used as a "wait your turn" with my other dog.

The station behavior was much more difficult for him in the context of me teaching classes.  He would stay on the station but  when I got distracted and the reinforcement rate dropped I would see behaviors I’ll call FOMO  (heavy panting, barking, fidgeting). The FOMO behavior was heavily reinforced since I would quickly up the rate of reinforcement or remove him to my car crate with a kong (which aside from the kong being yummy I think being out of the stressful environment was a relief for him). This went on for longer than I would like to admit. 

I finally switched to crating him in my car right off the bat and just bringing him out for quick demos and then returning him with a puzzle toy. Problem solved! He was much calmer during the actual demos and is very content in the car. This is our current strategy but it has several limitations:

  1. We’re in Florida and all summer long it’s too hot for me to risk leaving him in the car for any duration, even with extensive cooling measures in place. That means he stays home most of the summer (which means less training, more time alone and less time swimming in the training center’s pool, which he loves).
  2. I have recently started doing remote classes and was quite surprised to see this FOMO behavior happening without most of the antecedents. The only two that were present were the sound of clickers and my “teaching voice”. Granted, this was only one data point, something else may have contributed to this behavior (like where I was sitting, the time of day, him being under exercised etc.)

Back in October of last year we lost our other dog, Bailey, to osteosarcoma. When she died I vowed never to leave him at home if I didn’t have to so I started putting some time into working on this behavior. I started from scratch, using his mat instead of the cot station I used previously. I worked on developing fluency at home and then started doing sessions at the training center when it was empty and eventually while other trainers were teaching. While we made progress, I’m positive I could have split things down much further.  A video of one of these sessions is attached. We got distracted over the holidays and when my husband’s schedule changed so Finn wouldn’t be home alone any more  I put my training time elsewhere.

I think now is the perfect time to revisit this given that I have ample time to address the antecedents that are not related to the training center (while still having access to the sound of other people clicking and my teaching voice) and he’s not supposed to be moving much right now.

  1. Review the ABCS—what is your baseline?
  2. In what context does the behavior happen?
  3. What consequence is maintaining that behavior? 

Antecedents: being at the training center, other dogs present, the sound of treat bags rustling, the sound of clickers, my “teaching voice”, the presence of my treat pouch, standing at a distance from him, standing away from him for long periods,  me interacting with another dog, me talking to another person.

*I believe several of these antecedents must be present in order to cue the  "problem behavior". It does not occur as the result of only one of these, although we see less intense versions of it with just the treat pouch for example (heavy panting, instability). 

Behavior: heavy panting, frequently changing position on his station, high pitched whining, barking

Consequence: increased food reinforcement, release from station, put in car crate with kong

  1. Why is this behavior a problem? Safety? Manners? Easier to live with? Is this new skill for your convenience, your dog’s well-being, or both? 

Both. Being able to rest calmly on a station while I’m teaching would allow Finn to come to work with me on days when I would normally leave him at home.

  1. Define a replacement behavior for your dog to do instead—what does this look like? Typically this turns out to be a core-repertoire. Try to keep it simple. 

A relaxed down on his mat

Starting point:

Dense upfront reinforcement (via snuffle mat) for relaxed down on his mat at home in location not associated with training.