Welcome to the fifth 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 Training.
Follow through is an extremely important concept whenever you want to correct your dog’s bad behavior. The technical definition of follow through is that you must continue with a correction until you get a change in a dog’s state of mind. It shows your dog that you mean it and will persist with the correction until a behavior stops. Follow through does not mean that you escalate with your correction but that you continue until your dog understands that you disagree with a behavior, stops the behavior and looks to you for guidance.
The first time that you follow through with a correction is always the hardest and longest. This is because the dog will initially fight the change and continue with the unwanted behavior because it either enjoys the activity or the owner has accidentally reinforced the behavior. Your dog is testing you to see if you really mean what you are saying. The initial follow through of a correction is imperative. If you do not stick with a correction until your dog gets the point, or if you give in and let your dog continue a bad behavior, it will learn that you do not really mean it and that it does not need to listen to you.
The good news is that it gets easier to stop bad behavior each time you properly follow through with your corrections. Once your dog understands that you do mean what you say, and are willing to continue until they snap out of a behavior, it will become quicker and easier to change your dog’s state of mind. A perfect example is when your father yells, “don’t make me come up there” because you are acting up at bedtime and not going to sleep. The first few times that he does this, he will most likely have to go upstairs, come into you room, put you back into bed and turn the lights off. But, after he has followed through with the correction a couple of times, all he will have to do is give a warning from downstairs that he wants you to calm down and go to bed. This only works because he has followed it through each time and you have learned that you might as well go to sleep now or he will come upstairs and make you. The same concept applies to your dog.
Have patience and persistence when correcting your dog’s bad behaviors. Make sure not to get angrier at your dog but to just continue until your dog stops the behavior. Always remain calm but assertive with your tone and body language…there is a big difference between meaning it and being mean. If you adhere to the concept of proper follow through, your dog will trust and respect you as a leader and will be more likely to listen to you the first time that you correct any unwanted behaviors.
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.