The Bad Things – “12 Things You Can Teach Your Dog Without Really Trying” Continued
So in the first installment we talked about all the good things you can teach your dog without really trying.
It was all about how to reward behaviors he is already showing you so that he begins to show them more often.
Now let’s talk about how he gets you to reward the wrong behaviors…
In most of these instances, he is doing the training but it works the same way regardless if he is rewarded by it or he rewards himself he will continue the behavior.
Unfortunately this list is much longer than the "Good" list!
Accidents in the House
Accidents in the House: Here is how it usually goes down; your puppy has an accident in the house in the beginning it is usually in front of you. You see him and lose your temper, you yell, some people pop their dog’s on the nose, or with a newspaper or rub their nose in it and the dog learns that going potty “in front of you” or simply pooping or peeing is bad.
He does not have the ability to comprehend that going potty “inside the house” is what you find appalling he thinks it is the act of pooping or peeing that you find objectionable. This teaches him to want to hide and not urinate or defecate in front of you.
Instead, merely distract him with an “ehhh” and then take him outside and lightly praise him for going potty outside and in front of you. This teaches him that you like it when he goes potty in front of you and there is no reason for him to hide when he feels he needs to go.
He will learn soon enough that going potty outside is what you want for more on that click here.
This is one of my favorites! Well, not one of my favorite behaviors but the one that people have a hard time understanding. But there are so many ways to reward this behavior that people just don’t think about.
First off, so many people are worried that their puppies won’t ever bark that they over react when they do and teach inadvertent over barking.
Second, so many people think it is funny when their dog barks at the doorbell on TV or the other dog on TV that by thinking it’s funny and not putting a stop to it; they are in fact rewarding the behavior that can then get out of hand quickly.
Many owners often respond to a barking dog, which also rewards the behavior. The dog’s ball rolls under the couch, the dog barks, the owner retrieves the ball for the dog. Or the dog barks when it’s dinner time and so his owner feeds him. Or, the dog barks when he wants his owner to throw the ball so his owner throws it; rewarding the behavior.
Yelling when your dog barks is a lot like barking!! So if he barks and you are yelling “be quiet or shut up” or whatever your command of choice, your dog thinks you are joining in the behavior and this in turn rewards the behavior.
Barking is a natural behavior for dogs and is sometimes rewarding on its own, so it takes very little for your dog to find it even more rewarding!
Teaching your dog when to bark and when to be quiet is far and away the best when it comes to controlling barking. For more on that click here.
Digging is another fun subject because as people we don’t understand how fun it can be!
We get to read, watch TV, play computer or video games, chat with friends… well the options are limitless.
But your dog doesn’t have a lot of options. He can bark and hope the neighbor dogs bark back, he can trash or shred your things (that’s kind of fun) and when he is outside he can dig!
Digging is great because the dirt swirls around, flies through the air (this is fun enough) but the layers of dirt also smell different to your dog! This is like reading a novel to your dog!
If you want to keep your dog from digging, you need to try to keep him from starting!
Dog’s dig because they are bored.
So don’t leave him outside for so long, or make sure he is tired when he goes outside, or give him something else to do like a great bone to chew on or a Kong stuffed with peanut butter!
For more on digging click here
Stealing things is great fun! Stealing things is great fun for your dog that is; not as much fun for you!
So let’s see it from his perspective:
If he is stealing food, he is rewarding himself so this isn’t likely to change until you teach him otherwise or make food stealing unavailable.
If he is stealing your things, showing you, and then running and you are chasing him you are rewarding him with the best game EVER!
Playing chase with him is what he would do with a littermate. He would steal a toy, then tease his litter mate and then run, then of course they would give chase and try and take the item.
So when you stomp, and yell, and run after him; you are engaging in HIS game and teaching him that stealing things will get you to play.
Instead try this Teaching Your Thief How to Retrieve
Chewing is a way that dogs release some stress and some endorphins. It begins in puppyhood when puppies start teething. Chewing can be soothing.
If you don’t provide him with things to chew that are appropriate he will begin to select things that he likes.
Socks and underwear, sometimes even damp towels smell like you and are great things (in your dog’s mind) to chew on.
Other favorites? Your cell phone, your kids’ hand held games, your purse or anything else that you spend a lot of time touching.
If you get your puppy or dog appropriate items and things that taste good, you will imprint him to chewing on the right things at the right time.
But if you allow him time to steal your things and then take them somewhere to chew them he learns he can chew up what he wants.
I keep an eye on my puppies and don’t allow them access to my house until I know that they will no longer steal or chew on inappropriate things and they know where their toy box is and it has many available toys.
For more on chewing click here.
Pulling on Leash
If you go back to my first article I talk about heel position and in the beginning how most dogs and puppies chose to be near us at first. If only we would reward the behavior!
But instead, most people strap on a leash and allow their dogs to pull them from place to place.
By allowing their dogs to pull and sniff and pull again we are essentially telling the dog YES! Please pull me wherever you would like to go; this is all about YOU!
Instead, I teach my dogs leash manners and I reward them for not pulling, for respecting me and the leash and for giving me eye contact and focus when I ask for it! For more on eye contact and focus click here.
Jumping on people or you for that matter is a self-rewarding behavior.
To some degree you can yell and swat all you want but just getting up in your space can be rewarding for your dog.
It is kind of the same principle that negative attention is at least attention. So even if your dog knows he is going to get in trouble for it, he at least gets a little interaction!
The other problem is that we often encourage it sometimes, but don’t want it at other times.
Dogs aren’t great mind readers. They can’t tell when you are dressed up and they can’t jump on you, they just get used to getting excited and jumping up.
In order to teach your dog to stay off of you, you have to teach him that keeping all four feet on the ground is rewarding.
If he knows that sitting, or laying down, will get you and others to pet him and fawn all over him (if this is what he wants) he will begin to show this behavior.
For more help with jumping click here.
But you have to teach him what you want!
One of you is in charge of the dog training in your home, I always try to make sure it is in my hands and not his paws!
I try and reward the behaviors I want to continue seeing, give him an incompatible behavior to show, or ignore the behaviors I want to go away!
What other behaviors does your dog teach you??
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.