All you have to do is fill in that blank with jumping, digging, barking, chewing, etc. First, think about it from a dog’s perspective. All those behaviors (digging, jumping, biting, barking and chewing) are typical species behaviors. They’re the things that all dogs need to get along and to live safely in their own world. It just so happens that we humans (a totally different species) don’t want those behaviors to occur in our homes.
There are certainly fun and easy ways to get a dog to do what we’d like them TO DO. Most of us humans, however, always focus on what we DON’T want the dog to do.
We’re so very good a paying attention to our dogs when they’re doing something totally obnoxious, but we so often ignore them when they’re being really good.
When you really want to change a behavior there are 3 things to think about:
1. Visualize the behavior you DO want.
2. Prevent the dog from ever being rewarded for the behavior you DON’T want.
3. Consistently and generously reward the dog for the behavior you DO want.
Here’s an example. In our own home with our newest addition, Cody (a young Australian Shepherd we adopted from the Valley River Humane Society), one of our first goals when he cam home was to keep him out of the kitchen, especially when prepping meals (to prevent any counter surfing).
Here’s what we did in relation to the 3 Steps for Changing a Behavior:
- The behavior we wanted was to lie calmly at the entrance to the kitchen.
- We installed a pet gate at the entrance of the kitchen so that he couldn’t enter the kitchen.
- Each and every time he was at that spot (the entrance to the kitchen), we gave him a yummy treat. Operative words: EACH and EVERY time.
It wasn’t long before he would not only stand patiently at the entrance to the kitchen (the word patient and Cody were never used in the same sentence early on!), but would offer a “sit” at the entrance to the kitchen. That’s when we moved to giving him a treat each and every time he would “sit,” then when he offered a “down,” we’d reinforce the down with a yummy treat.
Because we “consistently and generously” reinforced the behavior we wanted, we’re now able to leave the pet gate open and sweet Cody calmly and patiently lies right at the entrance to the kitchen while we do all manner of things, including feeding our four, meowing furry felines.
You too, can do this with your own canine kid. It’s all about considering what you want your do TO DO and finding ways to reinforce that specific behavior. Reinforcement is what drives behavior, so the next time you say, I just want my dog to stop!” Review the 3 Steps for Changing a Behavior, decide what you really want you dog “to do” and train that instead.
Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities and distance consults for clients, dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. and Europe. www.coldnosecollege.com