Does your dog jump on the couch or the bed uninvited? How about barking along the fence line? Or maybe your dog likes to destroy things around the home. Here's how to reframe your approach to stop undesirable behaviours, without constantly nagging your dog!
Quite often, when our dogs are driving us up the wall, it's hard to know what to do. It's commonly advised to ignore your dog when they're doing something we're not entirely happy with, otherwise it could reinforce the behaviour they're doing.
That's great if you can ignore it, but if my dog is chowing down on my new shoes, I can tell you now, I am not going to ignore it!!! No sane person would. However, I don't want to be stuck always telling my dog "what not to do".
Ignoring behaviours on its own won't work
Dogs are quick learners, and will always continue behaviours that have a pay off. Instead of always telling your dog what not to do, or telling him off, start replacing the annoying behaviours he's exhibiting by teaching him what you want him to do instead.
Ignoring is only half of the solution, showing what your dog should do instead is the other half.
What does that mean?
Say for instance your dog is jumping up on people, pretty annoying. However, it's not too hard to ignore this for the short term. By ignoring the jumping, you're showing your dog the jumping doesn't achieve their goal of getting your attention. However, if you just ignore the jumping, it's never going to stop, and who wants a dog jumping on them all the time?!
So ignoring, while better than telling your dog off, isn't going to fix the behaviour alone. You also need to show your dog what you'd like them to do instead of jumping.
If you reward your dog anytime they stand or sit in front of you, you are teaching your dog what to do instead of jumping on people. Over time, this will replace the jumping up because it becomes a new behaviour pattern. Easy right?
What happens when you can't ignore what they're doing?
Let's go back to the shoes for a minute...... I can't (or rather won't) ignore my dog and let him rip up my new shoes. I'm going to go over and take my shoes back and pop them out of harms way. I'm not going to growl or carry on at him when I do so, then I am going to go away and let my annoyance wear off.
Later on, I'm going to grab some treats, gear my dog up on lead and walk him past where the shoes are kept. I'm going to work with him around the area with the shoes to show him what I want from him instead, walk past the shoes without looking at the shoes (treat), looking at me while I am standing near the shoes (treat), or laying down quietly away from the shoes (treat).
Here are a few more scenarios:
Jumping on couch - have your dogs bed, or a mat on the ground near the couch. Every time your dog goes onto his mat, give him a food reward. If he stays on his mat, you can continue rewarding him intermittently. If he jumps up on the couch, walk away from the area, and return and repeat the process. Remember not to command him to go on the mat or to stay there, reward him if he goes on by himself.
Dog barking along the front fence line and out on the front patio - train your dog out around the fenceline and out on the patio. Make it an area of fun, quiet and leadership as opposed to an area of guarding.
So as you can see, ignoring has it's time and place, and is certainly better than telling your dog off all the time. However, ignoring on its own won't work. If your dog is exhibiting behaviours that drive you crazy, think what new alternative (and rewarded!) behaviour you could replace it with.
Happy training, and don't forget if you get stuck we offer Behaviour Consultations!