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Tuesday Training Byte: Where to start fixing bad manners

Many people who sign up for a training class or private training come because their dog has bad manners they want to correct. The conventional methods of correcting behavior is not working and owners want a reset. It is possible to correct problem behavior even in an older dog, but this all requires a change in the owners. It boils down to this- stop rewarding bad behavior and instead reward good behavior.

Problem #1: the dog continues to jump up on people even when told no or down in a stern voice, and pushing the dog away. Dogs often seek attention and will do all kinds of naughty things to get it. Giving your dog attention when he jumps up rewards his bad behavior and only increases the problem. If you look at your dog, speak to your dog (even yelling No in a stern voice), or touch/push your dog, you unintentionally reward that attention getting behavior (AGB). When a dog jumps on me I do not look at, touch, or speak to the dog. In fact, I pivot turning away from the dog. When the dog gives up and stops jumping, I immediately mark the calm behavior with a "Yes!" and a treat. Four feet on the floor will get him the attention. Pet and praise him gently for a moment.

Problem #2: barking and running to the door when someone rings the doorbell or knocks. Are you touching, scolding, or giving eye contact all the while trying to get a hold of him and pull him off the door? Again, you are rewarding the bad behavior, the behavior continues. In behavioral conditioning we train the dog an alternate behavior such as going to their mat/bed and waiting whenever someone comes to your door.

Problem #3: The dog is dragging you when you try to take him for a walk. The dog is determining the speed and direction while you do your best to hold on and keep from falling on your knees. Yelling at the dog and jerking the leash are not working. In this case the reward is that the dog gets to be the leader and in charge. When the dog starts this, stop all forward motion. Resist the urge to give commands to your disobedient dog. Just silently stop and wait. As soon as my dog turns back to me I mark that behavior with a "Yes!" and a treat. Take a few steps forward and if your dog charges out ahead, repeat the same correction. After about the third time, step off with your left foot and say, "Fido, Heel" in an upbeat tone. If your dog starts to pull ahead again, male an immediate 90 degree left turn into the dog's right shoulder. He will have to step back to get out of your way. Once the command is given, do not say anything more and let the dog figure out where he needs to be. Do not expect him to stay perfectly and calmly on your left side for more than maybe 10 paces at which time you will stop and praise your dog.

Being consistent and spending just a few minutes a day in training the new skills will go a long way. It establishes that you are the boss and their are boundaries on what the dog is allowed to do without being harsh. We need to make sure that we are rewarding the good behavior for the naughty behavior to stop. Happy training!

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