The simple answer is that YOU teach your dog how to behave with every interaction you have with him. Every single time you give your dog attention (even yelling at him), you are rewarding him for that behavior. He learns that jumping on you gets him the attention he craves. To dogs, negative attention is better than no attention at all!
While you are training your dog, keep these two basic rules of canine learning theory in mind:
- Dogs are reward-driven. They will do whatever gets them the best rewards. Remember that attention, whether negative or positive, is a high-value reward for most dogs.
- Dogs learn through consistency....they understand "always" and "never". They do not understand that jumping on family member is okay, while jumping on guests is not. If you don't want your dog to jump on your guests, do not allow your dog to jump on anyone.
So, if you want a calm, obedient dog remember to reward him with attention, toys, treats (whatever your dog likes) whenever he is behaving appropriately and deny him those rewards when he is not. He will quickly learn what behavior gets him the best rewards! Be consistent and be a leader.
If you ask 10 people, you are likely to get 10 different definitions of what leadership means to them. Most people think of elected officials or business managers as leaders. Dogs define leaders a different way. Your dog detects leadership by your demeanor and your behavior. You define your status to your dog, as leader or follower, with every interaction you have with him (or her). Dogs obey leaders. That is why it is so important for you to achieve the leadership characteristics YOUR DOG looks for in a leader, and be that leader consistently.
So, how can you demonstrate leadership to your dog? Here are a couple ways:
- Leaders never follow. If you allow your dog to go out or in the door before you, you are not a leader. If your dog drags you down the sidewalk on your walks, you are not a leader. Try asking your dog to sit and wait at the door, open the door a little and, as long as your dog remains sitting, continue to open the door. If your dog breaks the sit, immediately close the door and try again. Continue the process until your dog will remain sitting when door is fully open. Then release him, go through the door with him following you. You can do this with your dog standing if he doesn’t know how to sit and wait, but the sit is a better behavior at the door. Practice this exercise coming back in as well. If your dog is pulling on the leash, stop walking the moment the leash gets tight, encourage your dog to return to your side (use his favorite small treats), then continue the walk. Do this every time he starts to pull. He will soon learn the best rewards (treats and the walk) come when he keeps the leash loose!
- Leaders are calm. Raising your voice, being nervous, losing your temper…these behaviors lower your status in your dog’s perspective.
Did you know that how you eat demonstrates leadership? What does when and where your dog barks say about leadership? There are lots of ways, obvious and not so obvious, that you can use to establish leadership with your dog.
Remember that your dog’s training will be more successful, and he will be happier and more balanced once your roles are well defined. Contact us for more information. We'd love to help you become the leader your dog needs you to be.
In the last couple of tips, we discussed how dogs learn and what it means to be a leader, from your dog’s perspective. In this tip, we will explore what is required to extinguish problem behaviors your dog may be exhibiting.
Does your dog jump on you, your family or your guests? Does your dog’s constant barking driving you nuts? These behaviors and others, such as digging, chewing on household items, unruliness in the house and nipping are normal behaviors to your dog, but can be inappropriate and problematic in our human environment. In order to extinguish a behavior that your dog considers normal and rewarding, trainers use a TREATMENT PLAN, which implements a four-pronged approach to the management and eventual elimination of the behavior in question.
The treatment plan consists of:
- Positive reinforcement of an alternate behavior
- Managing your dog’s environment so that he can be successful
- Consistency in your interactions with your dog
- Consequences for inappropriate behavior
Each problem behavior requires a unique treatment plan, and each dog and environment requires a treatment plan tailored to that dog and environment. We would love to help develop a treatment plan for you and your dog. Please contact us for your training needs.
Every year, millions of pets are surrendered to local animal control facilities for common, easily treated behavioral problems. There are very few happy endings for these pets. Digging, jumping, barking, nipping, etc...these behaviors are NORMAL dog behaviors, but are often unacceptable in the human environment. In order to extinguish these behaviors, we must teach the dog an alternate, acceptable behavior. Making this new behavior extremely rewarding to the dog, and not rewarding the undesired behavior, is how to teach a dog “manners”. Understanding how your dog learns, learning how to be a leader for your dog and being that leader consistently, and implementing the treatment plan consistently for the problem behavior will enable you to teach your dog how to live in your world with balance and joy. The household will be peaceful, and you will probably learn a good deal about yourself in the process.
If your dog is having behavioral problems, don’t wait for a miracle to solve the problem. Behavioral problems never get better, and generally worsen, without intervention. Please seek the advice of a qualified pet dog trainer. Your dog is worth the effort and you and your dog will be successful if you follow the plan!