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Positive, Practical Dog Training for the Real World

Your Weekly Training Tip

March 14, 2010

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Just Say No? Or, Filling in the Information Gap

Often, when our dogs are doing something we don't want them to do, our first reaction to to simply try to stop the behavior - telling the dog "no, don't do that"! Even when this works to stop the behavior, it leaves out an important factor in training: teaching the dog what we would like him to do instead. This "information gap" leaves your dog with countless options, only some of which may be behaviors you prefer to the one you just stopped! When possible, instead of simply attempting to get your dog to stop what he's doing, give your dog concrete direction on what you would like to see him do. This takes a little more thought, but has some real benefits.

  • Dogs deeply appreciate having a clear understanding of the rules, and dogs who do tend to be more calm and confident, with less nervous anxiety. Teaching what's expected and desired - and not just what's unwelcome - is all part of teaching the rules to your dog.
  • When you give concrete direction, you automatically visualize the behavior you prefer, instead of visualizing the behavior you don't like. Your dog will be aided by the subtle differences in your body language and demeanor as they reflect your brain "expecting" the desired behavior.
  • By behaving proactively versus reactively, you put yourself in the position of teacher and leader. This is a healthy thing for any human-dog relationship!

Think of some areas that currently present a challenge for your dog, and see if you can think up some good alternative behaviors that you would prefer to see. Some that I regularly use:

  • Instead of simply trying to stop the dog from jumping or pawing at the door to go outside (or come inside), teach that sit is the behavior that gets doors to open.
  • Instead of simply trying to stop the dog from jumping up, teach that sit (or stand) is the position that gets all the attention and petting.
  • Instead of simply trying to get the dog to stop barking at the door (or window, or TV), teach that after two or three barks, you will reward the dog for going and lying on his bed next to your feet.
  • Instead of simply trying to stop the dog from zooming around in hysterics while you attempt to attach his leash for his walk, teach that the leash only gets attached once the dog is sitting.

With repetition and active appreciation, your dog will begin to adopt the new, alternative behaviors as his own. It takes a little time, but once habit kicks in, and your dogs sees that the new behaviors "pays" better than the old, you are well on your way to a dog who is not only obedient, but well-mannered.

Thanks, and until next week, Happy Training!

Julie Cantrell BSc, CPDT-KA, CDBC
Canine Behavior Services



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Weekly Training Tips are Copyright 2010, Julie Cantrell BSc, CPDT-KA, CDBC, Canine Behavior Services. All rights reserved.