(adapted from Whole Dog Journal article, Five Steps to Unwanted Behavior by Mardi Richmond, CPDT-KA)
Is your dog counter surfing? Chewing? Digging? it might be instinctive to should “No!” when your dog is doing something that you don’t like, but at best, this might interrupt him for a moment. It doesn’t do anything to teach him what you’d rather he do instead. Here is a formula that you can apply to almost any unwanted behavior for great results:
1. Start with Management! Management is dog trainer lingo for prevention. As they say, practice makes perfect, so we want to prevent our dogs from practicing the behavior you’d like to stop (like jumping on your guests), until you can teach him what you would like him to do instead. If your dog is barking out the window, this may mean putting up a opaque window sticker or closing the blinds; if your puppy is chewing on your shoes, it may mean putting away all shoes for now. You get the idea. Once management is in place, you can move on to step two.
2. Remove Reinforcement. There is always a reason a dog does something that we don’t want them to do. In some, way that behavior is getting “reinforced” or encouraged. Sometimes it’s by you (does barking at you get your attention?) or it may be by the environment (when your dog barks at the mailman, the mailman leaves – whoa! that was reinforcing!). Before you can effectively stop a behavior, you have to figure out what is reinforcing the behavior and either remove that reinforcer or meet the dog’s needs in another way.
3. Teach Your Dog What To Do Instead (aka “Training Your Dog”): This concept is really basic, but we find it difficult for us to do – in any given situation, what would you like your dog to do instead. Here are some examples:
– Instead of jumping up, I would like my dog to greet people with all four paws on the floor.
– Instead of begging for food when we sit down to eat, I would like my dog to go settle on her bed.
– Instead of barking out the window, I would like my dog to come and tell me if there is something to worry about outside.
Now that you know what you want your dog to DO, we can lay out a training place to meet that goal!
When management and training fail… use a POSITIVE INTERRUPTER…. a word or phrase that means “stop what you’re doing and come check in with me.” We teach this in our introductory group classes as well as to private dog training clients along the CT shoreline.
We love helping owners teach work with their dogs to get rid of unwanted behaviors and to perform the behaviors that their owners would love to see. Reach out if you need help with training your dog and you’re in the towns of Branford, Guilford, Madison or other CT shoreline towns!
Link to original article: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/21_11/features/Five-Steps-to-Stopping-Unwanted-Behavior_21935-1.html
– Bryony Aviles, firstname.lastname@example.org