Training Triumph Sparked by Jeopardy Obsession

Jun 12, 2024

TJ is an avid fan of Jeopardy and loves watching the game show every night. He’s also a passionate about watching ice skating and basketball. However, TJ’s fascination with the television quickly became an obsession.

The problem is that TJ is a 3-year-old Saint Bernard/Poodle mix. His frustration with waiting to watch his favorite show, commercials featuring animals, or programs with a lot of movement and noise resulted in excessive barking at the screen and disruptive behavior.

Every night at 7 pm, TJ wants the television tuned to Jeopardy, or he barks excessively at the screen until the show starts. When that remote activates the television, he’ll settle in for 30 minutes of head tilts left and right as Ken Jennings reads the clues–until commercial breaks…

“We cannot explain TJ’s fascination with Jeopardy or his ability to know that it’s time for the show to begin. No other show captures his attention like Jeopardy. And TJ’s interest in watching sports probably comes from his love of playing ball. The interest in ice skating is a true mystery; we think he enjoys the music,” said Liz Mulllen.

When TJ was a puppy, an animal trainer noticed the beginning of TJ’s interaction with the television. He explained to Liz that animals recognize motion on the television. TJ loves to play so Liz believes the television over-stimulates his need for interaction. When the animals or movement do not respond to TJ, the result is total confusion, crying, and barking in frustration. His frustration and relentless behavior became a disruption to the household.

“We have to fast forward through the commercials since TJ has developed strong reactions to animals on the television, especially dogs, cats, and other pets. And there are a lot of pet food commercials,” said Liz, adding, “We also have to record episodes of Jeopardy, because TJ doesn’t understand that the game show doesn’t air on Saturdays and Sundays, so he’d bark relentlessly at the television.”

Ken, what is…effective training?

TJ has been in training to gain better control over his television tantrums. He attends daycare at Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center and is an alumnus of the resort’s Play & Learn professional training program, so Liz reached out to training director Mark Berkowitz for help.

A series of private lessons for TJ has helped refocus his attention when the reactive sounds trigger unwanted behaviors. Sessions began by working with TJ outside by creating distance between him and the source of the reactive sounds. As TJ and Mark walked closer to the source of the sounds, Mark immediately redirected TJ when he started to react. When the unwanted behavior stopped, TJ was rewarded.

When TJ successfully mastered the ability to approach the source of the sounds that triggered a reaction outside, training moved inside—closer to his favorite object and simultaneous nemesis, the television!

“TJ was more reactive inside with excessive barking at the television. The process of reinforcing the expected–calmer–behavior with positive reinforcement continued,” said Mark.

It’s time for Final Jeopardy…

“Mark’s training included training the “humans” too. His lessons have been invaluable, and we have stuck to the lessons with TJ at home,” said Liz.

TJ is a quick study and a playful soul. He has learned that his behaviors have consequences. Positive behaviors mean he get to watch Final Jeopardy or an ice-skating competition. Negative behaviors result in being taken away from the television.

“He’s so smart that when he barks at the television, he immediately looks over at the leash to see what will happen next,” added Liz.

Some canine behaviors can be cute and silly until they become over-the-top and unwelcome. TJ is a smart dog—after all, he does watch Jeopardy. However, when a dog (even a smart one) gets attention for undesirable behavior, that behavior will be repeated to get attention—which for TJ is watching his favorite shows. The solution is to flip the script and reward good behavior.

“We are so grateful for Mark’s patience working with TJ and for the positive results. We continued to be amazed and surprised by the intelligence TJ has shown, and we love the calming atmosphere that positive training has created at home,” said Liz.

Training triumph for the win!

Positive reinforcement builds a strong bond of trust and cooperation between the dog and pet parent. At Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center, our popular Stay & Learn and Play & Learn training programs immerse your dog in multiple daily sessions to ensure consistent learning and positive reinforcement of commands and behaviors.

Proper training leads to a happy dog and a positive experience when watching television together. Call 215-345-6000 to discover how the professional training programs at Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center can lead to lasting results.

Call Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center today to book your pet’s one-of-a-kind vacation at our luxury pet care facility!