May 18, 2008
When it comes to the behavior of our dogs, we often ask ourself: “Why do you keep doing that (dogs name)?” As a dog trainer I get calls all the time with that question. At home, being a *dog mom* first, I will catch myself asking myself this question…usually on Mondays when the garbage trucks are circling the neighborhood about nine times throughout the day… So, what’s wrong with this picture??? We’re just focusing in on what we don’t want – what drives us nuts – which doesn’t solve anything. What we need to do is simple… we need to ask the right question: “What behavior do I want?”
From that answer you can say to yourself: “Then this is the behavior I want to reward!” For instance, let’s say I want my own dog Poncho to be quiet while he is hanging out in the yard. I do allow him to bark once (to alert me, after all, that’s part of his *job* description)… So, being out there and just being quiet gets him rewarded! I make sure to catch him in the act of doing what I want, then acknowledge it, and reward. “Thank you!” If it’s a situation where I want him to bark I allow him to continue, if not, then I give him a separate cue for wanting quiet. If he follows it, he gets rewarded – food, play time, freedom in the yard – if not, then inside he goes. “Too bad for you.”
Now he has the choice: stay outside following the rules gets rewarded – breaking the game rules gets him nothing.
This is the type of training steps I teach in my classes – it’s simple, it works, plus it gets you focused on what you want, not what you don’t want… So remember, the next time you find yourself frustrated with your dog, just ask yourself “What behavior do I want? What behavior do I want to reward?” Then do it!