Five Steps to Stopping Unwanted Behavior
What to do and what not to do when your dog does something you don’t like.
Most of the time, when our dogs engage in behaviour that we don’t want them to, like stealing our socks or jumping on our elderly aunt, we immediately say “NO.” We have all taken part in it. The word “no” should be avoided, according to one or more dog trainers. Shouldn’t you correct your dog when he makes a mistake?
To begin with, most of the time, simply saying “no”—even if you say it out loud—doesn’t work. (If saying “no” were to work, I’m confident that my phone would stop ringing and I’d lose my job.) Additionally, there is a chance that intimidation to stop behaviour we don’t like in our dogs can damage our dog’s health. Last, telling your dog “no” does not give instructions or suggest an alternative course of action.
So how can we stop undesirable behaviour if telling someone “no” isn’t the answer? To effectively apply nearly any negative behaviour, use the formula below:
1. Start by putting a lot of emphasis on management.
As employed by dog trainers, to manage is to avoid. It involves denying your dog the opportunity to “practice” the behaviour you want to stop. The goal is to figure out a way to stop the behaviour until you can teach your dog what she should do instead, whether your dog is eating your shoes, jumping on your kids, or barking when your neighbour’s dog walks by.
You might need to get creative with this, or at the absolute least, keep your shoes in the closet. Use crates, baby gates, leashes, and window guards. Holding a toy in your hand while patting your puppy may be necessary to prevent mouthing. You could need to apply for a visual obstruction if your dog constantly barks at things outside the window. You may need to build a baby gate if your dog jumps on people when they enter your house because of this behaviour to stop your dog from approaching them. You get the idea. Following the establishment of the management, move on to step two.
2. Remove the reinforcement.
There is a rationale behind every time a dog takes something that we don’t want her to. Because that behaviour can be an expression of usual dog behaviour, we must provide different outlets. The behaviour the dog exhibits can be an effort to calm itself. Even though dogs do some fun things we don’t like (like jumping on us), sometimes these things (like barking or tearing up the carpet) are ways to show that they are worried or upset.
Look into what’s causing your dog’s behaviour. If someone jumps on you, do you pay attention? Is it enjoyable to spend time playing in the trash? If I race you around the house with a sponge, will you play the keep-away game? Does pulling on the leash allow the dog to lure you to a place with an alluring smell and make your stay there? Before stopping unwanted behaviour, you must figure out what is reinforcing it and either find a different way to meet the dog’s needs or remove the reinforcement.
3. train the dog to do what you want her to do in its place by teaching her
Recognize that yelling at your dog won’t make him submit to your commands. Teaching your dog what to do instead of that problematic behaviour is crucial in successfully resolving it (put in your specific behaviour concern here). This signifies a substantial change in the way most of us think.
- Instead of jumping up to welcome people, my dog should greet them politely with all four paws on the ground.
- I prefer my dog to lie down on her bed rather than beg for food when we are eating.
- Instead of barking out the window, I want my dog to come to me and warn me if there is anything to be concerned about outside.
- I would like my dog to sit while I rapidly let go of the leash before playing with other dogs.
- I’d like it if my dog didn’t yank on the leash as we walked down the street.
- When we go on an off-leash walk, I want my dog to remain within 30 feet of me and not go out into the woods.
We have established a realistic goal when we think of anything our dog could do instead of undesirable behaviour. We may then make a training regimen to meet that goal from there!
4. Employ a strong interrupter.
Do we ever get to say “no” to our dogs? It’s important to set boundaries in life and with our dogs (both physical and behavioural). It’s acceptable to stop your dog from acting in a dangerous or even annoying way. Here, it’s critical how you stop her. Clear and consistent criticism might be helpful.
For example, you can calmly and frequently stop the behaviour and bring your dog to her bed if you see that she is ready to jump up on the couch, and you’d instead she didn’t.
I like to use a “positive interrupter” (PI). PIs can take many different shapes. I treasure the most a noise or word that commands, “Stop what you’re doing and pay attention to me!” At first, it is relatively easy to teach. Still, it needs a lot of practice to generalize it to work in more challenging situations.
How to teach effective interrupting:
A) Choose a sound or word.
Many people make a kissing or tongue-clicking noise. Some people say, “Watch!” or “Look!” You might also use a traditional strategy and say, “Leave it!” or “No!” The way you say something and the meaning you give it are more important than the actual words you use. Simply serving as a cue, the word shouldn’t be used to intimidate or control the dog. Use it clearly and positively, as with any cue.
This is important if you use a word like “No!” as your PI. Most people frequently use “No!” as a stern command or a threat of punishment because they find it nearly impossible to consistently say it joyfully and continuously. Try to say it with a positive attitude and the understanding that it is just another opportunity cue.
B) When you finish saying your PI, give your dog a wonderful treat.
At this time, use your heaviest weapons, such as chicken, roast beef, or your dog’s favourite foods. As soon as you cheerfully say your PI, give your dog many pieces of roast meat. Repeat this procedure a dozen times or until your dog learns to anticipate your PI and looks at you. Through classical conditioning, you are inducing a conditioned emotional response (CER) to the word. By taking this step, you’ll be able to teach your dog to respond even when there are very tempting things around.
C) Teach your dog to stop playing and instead come to you.
Whenever your dog begins to show signs of distraction, cheerfully say your PI. If he has a CER to the word, he will stare back at you while looking forward to the roast meat. After you “mark” the moment that he looks back with a signal, such as the click of a clicker or the word “Yes,” give him many pieces of roast beef in a row. Please repeat this step until your dog eagerly and happily turns to face you each time he hears the PI.
D) Hone your skills in a noisy environment.
Start with low-tech distractions like a piece of paper or a soft toy. As you gain experience, work harder with fewer distractions. For those more challenging distractions, like a squirrel running in the treetops, you might need to practice at a distance first. Continue to reward your dog whenever he returns to you until he does so most of the time. After that, you may begin utilizing your PI to prevent your dog from acting in a way that is against your wishes.
Although interrupters work well here and now, your dog’s behaviour may not be permanently altered. An interrupter is a temporary solution. Long-term success is more likely if you consistently respond to your interrupter with a cue for alternative behaviour. If your puppy begins to chew on a table leg, tell it to stop and chew on a toy instead.
5. Only correct without effort on rare occasions.
It is possible to “correct” a dog without intimidation or threats.
Timeouts are one example. A break takes away the opportunity for reinforcement. You can “mark” the moment your puppy bites your hand during play by saying “ouch” or making another noise, stop the play for five to ten seconds, and then resume it. After experiencing this several times during a play session, the puppy ought to realize that biting you put a stop to the game—what a bummer! He will try to stop mouthing you in the future so the play session can continue.
Additional similar corrective measures include:
•Walking away from your dog.
•Putting toys or rewards away.
•Prevent your dog from engaging in an activity he likes.
You might be able to stop attention-reinforcing behaviours using this technique.
Timeouts must, however, be used frequently and with perfect timing. For instance, if your dog is clear about what is stopping the play, he can feel irritated, and frustration might increase unwanted behaviour. Be selective while utilizing timeout techniques.
Usually, the first three steps—implementing management, removing reinforcement, and teaching a replacement behaviour—are sufficient to stop unwanted behaviours. Timeouts can be used sparingly for reinforcing behaviours, and interrupters may be helpful for more challenging behaviours.
Keep in mind that changing destructive behaviours rarely happens in a straight line. You might have to look at your ideas and change them to find the best way to train your dog for you and him.