The Permission Paradox: Dog Training Tips

Today at the Dog Blog we have a very interesting guest post from

There is a principle that exists in dog training that few people are aware of. I call this principle the Permission Paradox.

The Permission Paradox is an animal training principal that uses counterintuitive logic to get dogs to STOP doing things that you want them to do by actually giving them permission to misbehave during designated times.

This principle of dog training is very effective because by allowing a dog to misbehave during designated times, by actually putting bad behaviors like barking or licking on cue, you can reduce the desire the dog has to want to misbehave… because it’s no longer misbehaving.

All though the science behind why this principle is so effective is not yet known, or completely agreed upon, I believe that this principle is extremely effective because it uses the Forbidden Fruit principle; the same principle that drove Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

I first heard about this principle watching a public broadcasting program on television that explained a very weird psychological phenomenon. In an experiment aimed at discovering what drives people to binge eat, and researchers discovered something very interesting.

They noticed that children who had 100% unrestricted access to chips, popcorn, candy, and other well balanced foods like fruit and veggies at dinner would not binge eat when given a bowl of popcorn or M & M’s while watching TV. They’d just take a small handful of all the foods, healthy and unhealthy.

I personally would have thought such parenting tactics of letting children eat whatever they wish would be foolish. But what researches discovered is that the children who WOULD binge eat, had parents who withheld treats from their children. These well intentioned parents would only let their kid have one bowl of popcorn, or a small amount of candy; basically restricting their access to unhealthy treats.

Yet this second group of children, when presented the opportunity to eat an entire box of Oreos, or bag of potatoes chips, jumped all over the opportunity, and would overeat heavily.

Thus the researches concluded that the very act of restricting access to things children want, actually INCREASES the desire inside the child to acquire that thing; and they call it the forbidden fruit principle.

So here’s why this is an important principle to use when training your dog…

If you have a dog who has an annoying habit that you’d like him to stop doing, like licking you too much, try this.

Try actually training your dog to lick you when given a certain command.

This is a fairly simple behavior to teach. All you need to do is start rewarding your dog with a small treat over the next few days for “giving you a kiss” ie… Licking your chin. To train this behavior follow these steps:

  1. Hold a small treat in front of your chin in such a way as to prompt your dog to lick your chin in some way… but NOT get the treat.
  2. When your dog licks your chin, say “good”, and then let him have the treat in your hand.
  3. Once your dog is regularly licking your chin, start saying, “give me a kiss” right before your dog licks your face for 10 repetitions.
  4. On the 11th repetition do NOT give the cue. Your dog will probably still lick your face, but do NOT reward him. Instead, simply turn your back on him for a few seconds.
  5. Continue asking for a lick a few times in a row, and then not asking, making sure to only reward your dog with treats when you DO give the cue, and your dog will start to realize that he only gets the reward if he waits for the cue first.

When your dog is ONLY licking you when you give him the cue to “give you a kiss” first, and not licking you when you don’t give the cue, you’ve successfully trained him to “misbehave” on cue.

This will automatically reduce the dog’s desire to lick you in the future, as long as once or twice a day you continue to give your dog “Permission to Misbehave” by asking him to lick you on cue.

If you’ll follow these guidelines with any behavior you want your dog to stop doing, I think you’ll find your dog’s desire to misbehave will be greatly reduced.

Chet Womach has been helping people with dog obedience issues for several years now. You can check out more of his dog training advice @

5 Responses to “The Permission Paradox: Dog Training Tips”

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  1. Kate says:

    This sounds very interesting to do. Thanks for all the nice info =)

  2. Jana says:

    That is truly interesting. What I like about it is that is a non-violent approach. I did read about getting dogs stop barking this way.
    Didn’t work when we tried to stop our girl from barking, but I will certainly try this again.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Very interesting. I may have to try this, I really don’t like doggy kisses, but my puppy loves to give them.

    Any ideas on play biting? She’s a new puppy to us, but she’s almost 6 months old. She doesn’t even know her name yet, but I need to stop her from biting me when she’s playing.

  4. Three Dog Blogger says:


    We found putting a toy in front of them as soon as they started to bite to be very effective. Or tell them no and if they continue you get up and turn your back for a few minutes. They soon understand then that they are not to do it.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Thanks. I haven’t had a dog since I was really little (like 20 years ago..) So I’m new to all this puppy stuff.