We all ask ourselves why our dog exhibits certain behaviors. Not all answers are simple but many are. Other than instinctual behaviors, many behaviors are inadvertently rewarded so the dog continues to do them.
You can replace annoying attention-seeking behaviors by rewarding the behaviors you want and discouraging the unwanted behaviors by making sure your dog understands that there are consequences. Owners exhibit leadership skills by being consistent with the message of how dogs can earn rewards as opposed to receiving certain consequences.
If your dog barks when you are on the phone, and you stop talking to tell him “no barking” without ever enforcing with a consequence, then your dog will continue barking – since you stopped what you were doing to give attention.
If your dog jumps on you and you push him away with your hands, he sees it as being rewarded by your touch. I know it sounds subtle, but it is meaningful in the way your dog interprets your behavior.
What you do to teach your dog how to behave will help when they are misbehaving. For example: Teaching an alternate behavior for jumping is teaching a lie down or a sit. When they do this, you can reward with your attention. When they know this already and then start jumping, you can have them do either to earn praise, touch or treats and toy rewards.
A negative cue such as “off” used consistently will tell your dog specifically what you don’t like. You can also teach your dog to go to a specific spot such as a dog bed when you can’t pay attention to them. Keep them occupied there with something to play with or chew on so it is rewarding to go there.
If nothing positive is working, then consequences such as removal away from you or walking through them assertively, bumping them out of your way, become specific consequences. This teaches them to make appropriate choices that are rewarding.
For barking, again, teaching a place to go such as above when they are demanding attention becomes positive and rewarding to the dog. As a negative consequence using mild correctives along with the “no barking” cue like a water spray bottle set to mist or a can filled with noisy metal such as coins, can interrupt the behavior by getting their attention.
Once again by being consistent you would be teaching the dog that barking did not get them what they wanted, but that the alternative would be acceptable while the consequences were not.
As with all things involving dog training, consistency is so important. Do the same thing every single time and making sure that all family members comply. Resist inadvertently rewarding an unwanted behavior by touching or paying attention to the dog. Providing skills the dog can learn and consequences that the dog will respect are all part of the process to ensure a better behaved dog.
Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com