This is a common piece of advice I share with my clients. It's so simple, yet easily overlooked, this idea of giving positive feedback when the dog does something you like. I encourage you to focus on this for a week or two so you really build this observational habit of seeing the good.
It's not always easy to do. Naughty behavior is so much more notice-worthy! Picture yourself preparing food in the kitchen. Now imagine your dog, an aspiring Flying Wallenda, sailing onto the counter to steal the rump roast. Who's going to miss noticing that behavior?? (Though perhaps it's an act of pure selflessness, sparing us from rump-eating.)
What if, instead, your dog is just hanging out politely several feet away? REINFORCE THAT! Lob a doggie treat over to him. Repeat randomly. Before you know it, this behavior will become the norm. A dog who stations numerous feet away from your food-infested counters is physically incapable of counter-surfing (thanks to evolutionary selection against a chameleon tongue). Boom! Problem solved.
When dogs engage in behaviors we consider naughty, problematic, or unsafe, we rarely have a problem giving feedback in those moments. Caught behind the eight ball, you may find yourself repeatedly in reactive mode, AFTER the undesired behaviors have occurred.
As highlighted in my counter-surfing example, the best answer is to teach appropriate, alternative behaviors that are more reinforcing to the dog than those undesired behaviors were. And yes, this takes training time and consistency, and yes, it's worth it!
But until you've had time to build those preferred replacement behaviors, smart management is going to be key.
Another example of an undesired behavior: dog dashes through door when pizza delivery dude arrives, and then has a raucous romp in the neighborhood for the next half-hour.
One solution to eradicate door-dashing: teach your dog to happily stay on a mat, or some clearly designated spot, well away from the door.
Until training is completed, smart management needs to be in place: tether or gate your dog away from the door before delivery arrives, so he's absolutely unable to keep practicing door-dashing behavior.
By following these simple steps, some cool things happen:
Dog is now safer
You're less frustrated
Training opportunities where positive reinforcement techniques are used not only build sturdy skills that the dog is happy to do, but this training activity builds a stronger relationship between you and your dog
To see a video on how I teach this LINE-UP behavior, click here.
If you like this article, please share with other puppy lovers you know. :-)
Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers live video consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, puppy matchmaking services, and pre- and post-arrival counseling for new puppies. She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in northern Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.
Please visit www.NorthStarCanines.com/services to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120
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