There’s No Short Cuts…

September 27, 2016 | By | Reply More

scrabbleI often hear from people seeking advice on how to train their dogs. And I’m happy to help. Obedience training, behavior modification…it’s what I do. But too often, I hear the following “complaints” from folks about their dogs’ behavior. Here’s just a few examples.

“I don’t care if he knows how to sit or stay, I just want him to stop jumping on everyone,” or
“She doesn’t have to learn all that obedience stuff, I just want her to come when I call her,” or
“I don’t need him to know how to come or stay, I just don’t want him to chase the cat,” or
It’s ok if he jumps on me when we’re playing, but not when I am coming home from work,” or
“I just need her to stop peeing on my rug”

In other words, “I want my dog to stop doing _______ because I said so.” or “I don’t have the time to work with him.” So…what’s a dog to do?

In positive reinforcement training, the way we approach most unwanted behaviors is first, to consider what we would like the dog to do instead of what he is doing, and train for that behavior. This is why it’s so helpful to teach your dog a few good behaviors that you can redirect him to when he begins to misbehave. Whether your dog is barking, or jumping, mouthing or chewing, it’s a pretty good bet that he is simply acting like a dog, and doing something that’s very natural for him. So it’s not fair for us to expect the dog to act any other way until we first take the time to show him.

Often, the solution is so simple: negative punishment (maybe a 30 second “time out” in the bathroom), teaching incompatible behaviors (if your dog sits on cue, he cannot jump at the same time) or pre-empting behavior (just before your dog is about to chase the bike, toss a yummy treat in the opposite direction for him to chase).

These things can be easily taught and carried out by dog owners with a little bit of patience and understanding of how dogs learn. My very favorite excerpt “Empathy 101” by Jean Donaldson from the book “Culture Clash” is an excellent example of living with humans from a dog’s perspective:

Then consider taking an obedience class with your dog, and learn how easy it is to teach him what you want him to do, and spend more time praising the good behavior, than stressing over the bad behavior.

Tags: bad manners, behavior modification, help, obedience, positive reinforcement, problem dogs, stop bad behavior, teaching the right way, training, with my dog

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