Welcome to the eighth post in our Dog Training blog series. This ongoing series features guest posts by local professional dog trainers and highlights some of the big questions they address to their clients. Today's post was written by Adam Miller of Big Dog Canine Behavioral Dog Training.
Dog owners have four options to choose from when dealing with any behavior demonstrated by their furry family members – they can reward, ignore, re-direct or address the dog’s behavior. Which option you choose to use will depend on what the specific behavior is and the intensity level of the dog. Still, no matter which technique is chosen, you must always have a calm and confident manner when dealing with your dog.
Good behavior should always be rewarded. By giving affection, attention, treats or praise to your dog, you will be positively reinforcing whatever behavior your dog is displaying. Your dog will repeat behaviors that have a positive consequence. Learn to praise your dog more than you correct them.
Ignoring your dog is a strong communication technique. It is a simple way of telling your dog that you do not agree with and you will not get involved with their current behavior. Though it seems simple, to be affective, you must truly ignore your dog…turn away or walk away from your dog while holding a determined energy.
Re-directing can work wonders. Thankfully, dog’s can only do one thing at a time so, if you can get your dog’s focus onto something else, you can get your dog to forget about the original behavior you wanted to stop. If you can get your dog to chew on a rope instead of your hands, you now have an opportunity to reward and reinforce a wanted behavior. This technique is very effective with human children as well ☺
If all other techniques fail, or if your dog or another animal is in harms way, then you need to address your dog’s behavior. You must use different communication techniques to block or stop the unwanted actions. Be sure to have a calm and confident demeanor whenever you are directly confronting a behavior because your intent is never to physically or mentally harm your dog.
The best way to illustrate these techniques is by observing a puppy harassing an older dog because the puppy wants to play. The older dog may want to play and can REWARD the behavior by joining in on the fun. If the older dog does not want to engage in play, it will IGNORE the puppy by turning away, shoulder or butt blocking or by moving away. If this does not work, the older dog may stop to smell something, get a drink of water or grab a toy, in hope that the new activity will RE-DIRECT the puppy’s focus onto something else. Finally, if the puppy persists, the older dog will ADDRESS the behavior by growling at, snapping at or physically correcting the puppy. This correction can sometimes look fierce but there is rarely damage since the older dog’s intent is not to hurt the puppy but only to stop the little guy’s unwanted behavior.
The idea is to understand that you have options when dealing with your dog’s different behaviors. Try not to get stuck using only one technique…mix them up and try different methods depending on the exact behavior your dog is exhibiting. I usually like to start with the least invasive options first (IGNORE or RE-DIRECT) to give the dog a chance to quit before I directly block or stop a behavior (ADDRESS). But, no matter which method you use, it is essential to follow through until the dog realizes the behavior is not wanted and stops. Always remain calm, confident and consistent when communicating with your dog. When you correct your dog with an angry and upset attitude, you are punishing your dog…when you correct your with a composed and assertive attitude, you are training your dog.
This post was written by Adam Miller of Big Dog Canine Behavioral Training. For more information or to learn how Adam can help with your dog needs, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.