We all come across everyday problem behaviours with our dog that may seem difficult to resolve. Owners are often baffled as to how to approach this and have resorted to saying “NO” ever more loudly. With little result.
But quite often, the things we don’t like our dog to do have started, or escalated, because we have our focus on the wrong area.
Dogs do what works
If an action of theirs gets a consequence they like, they’ll do it again. And again. And again and again. If that action gets a poor consequence, or no consequence at all, they’ll give it up and try something else. Sometimes, what you think is going to stop him, actually makes your dog worse. “All this attention and shouting,” he thinks, “I’ll have to do this again!”
Keep in mind that they’ve always got to be doing something. They can’t NOT do anything.
So all we have to do is make sure to reward what we like, immediately and enthusiastically, to get our dog to realise that that is a profitable course of action.
It’s all about choice
We have choice points all day, every day:
- “Will I get up now or hit the snooze button?”
- Coffee or tea?
- Breakfast or none?
- Red jumper or blue jumper?
and so on throughout the day.
Your dog also has choices all day long:
- “Shall I bark at the window or watch quietly?”
- “Will I lie down in the kitchen during cooking, or try to steal food?”
- Jump up at the visitor or sit?
- Chew the chair leg or my toy?
and so on.
Your job is not to TELL your dog what he should be doing, but observe his actions and be sure to throw a party whenever he makes the right choice.
“But he’ll never choose to sit for visitors!”
And this is where we do intervene, but only to manage the situation to prevent what we don’t want to happen. Putting him on lead and standing on the lead would be a good interim management technique for greeting visitors. Meanwhile your dog learns during training sessions that a Sit is a good choice and will always earn him a reward. This could be treats, a game, or an opportunity to greet that visitor!
Reward what you like,
Ignore what you don’t like, and
Manage what you can’t ignore,
you’ll be on track for developing a responsiveness in your dog that may amaze you!
Here’s what Sophie said after giving this a try for just a couple of weeks:
“Just thought that I would let you know that your brilliant idea of rewarding for the behaviour that we want has helped Odin to become a very calm and patient puppy when it’s our dinner time. He will lie down nicely and play with his toys while we're eating. :) “
No “NOOOOOs”. No “Ah-ahs”. No frustrated nagging. No tellings-off. Just selecting the action she liked and rewarding it solved the problem for Sophie.
So how do I start with this?
I’d like you to pick just one thing that is annoying you about your dog, decide what you’d like him to do instead, then heavily reward him every time he makes the right choice. Don’t make this too hard - keep it simple! The simpler you make the problem, the faster your dog will work out the solution.
Be sure that all family members are on the same page here! And after a week you should be seeing a vast improvement.
And for extra help, get our free e-mail course on puppy problems.
Tell me in the comments below what you picked, and how it’s going. I shall look forward to seeing just how resourceful you can be!