And herein lies the problem. That is a “behaviour stop”. And when one behaviour stops, another comes along to take its place, whether you want it to or not. So the real question needs to be: What do you want your dog to do instead?
You see, contrary to what you may think, dogs don’t do things just to annoy you. They don’t do things out of spite. They don’t do things “that they know are wrong”. That’s us projecting our own emotions, and our own failings, onto our dogs. Dogs just do whatever is rewarding for them in that moment and they form pictures of what works through consistent repetition.
For your Fido, good and bad don’t exist, it’s just a simple case of what works and what doesn’t. We are the arbiters of what is right or wrong. We get to decide which is which, but remember that, on its own, this means nothing to your Fido.
Before you start to work on answers to “What do you want your dog to do instead?”, remember that your dog is in it for reward, so whatever behaviour you want him to do instead has to be more rewarding than the one he’s exhibiting now.
For example, your dog is constantly jumping up on you, your guests, your kids. In response, we shout “NO!”, maybe wave our arms, bop him on the nose, yet the behaviour continues. Disengaging from this behaviour might give him pause (pun intended!) for thought and he might try something else, like sitting, at which point we reward him. The sit gets him treats, cuddles or attention, but jumping up gets him nothing. It’s an easy choice for your Fido.
Maybe your dog is jumping up on the counters for food. Again, his reward is often attention from us: “NO, GET DOWN” as well as the extra bonus of any food he can quickly grab whilst he’s up there, whereas we could simply direct him to his bed and reward him for being there. He’ll think, “Why expend all that time and energy when I can lie here and have you drop treats for me?”
Behavioural change is a two-step process about teaching our dog a new behaviour (that we want) to replace an old one (that we don’t). We get to decide which is which and then we have to make the one we want more rewarding than the one we don’t.
Teach your dog something new and specific, something better. By being consistent with the new behaviour, we help our dog forget the old one ever existed in the first place.
In dog training, we often talk about management vs. training. Management is prevention – we block access to countertops or certain rooms, we put chewable shoes in a cupboard or on a shelf, we make sure kids’ bedroom doors are shut etc – and this helps us to shape the training part to guide him down the road of the behaviours we actually want.
Set your dog – and yourself – up to succeed and you’ll be amazed how quickly things can change.
As you’ve gone through this article, you have probably thought of a bunch of things you want your dog to stop doing. So make a list of those behaviours and, next to them, write down what you want him to do instead. Then give us a call…
CPA is the only K9 organisation in Thailand accredited with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Evaluator.