I want my dog to stop barking and lunging at other dogs. I want my dog to stop eating the furniture. I want my dog to stop pulling me on leash. I want my dog to stop stealing food off the counter. The list of desired “stop doings” that I hear as a trainer every day has a common theme. That is, how do I stop my dog from basically acting like a dog? Dogs are dogs and they do things that a socialized human wouldn’t do. They bark, jump up, chew on things when they are bored, squabble with each other over desired resources, pull on their leash, etc. What we consider inappropriate behavior is very likely a totally reasonable course of action from a dog’s point of view.
Given this fact, it truly sets up a frustrating situation when we attempt to “stop” a behavior. To the average person, stopping a behavior often means reaching for some kind of pain/discomfort inducing technology such as a choke chain, a prong collar, a shock collar, spray bottles and/or bitter tasting sprays. It may also mean using physical force or harsh verbal tones to intimidate a dog into compliance. Such strategies may produce short term results, but they often require increases in the intensity of the unpleasant consequence in order to maintain a behavior’s extinguishment. In addition, studies show that if the consequence is not immediately visible to the dog, they will happily engage in the undesired behavior because the rewards are available in the moment.
Consider a different point of view. How about instead of punishing your dog to get them to stop doing something, you identify what you would WANT them to do and teach THAT behavior? All of a sudden, instead of being frustrated, upset and defensive over STOPPING your dog you have become thoughtful, patient and creative as you try to teach your dog what you would like them TO do. From your dog’s point of view, you are likely a much more pleasant person to be around when you are creative and thoughtful rather than when you are frustrated, upset and engaged in stopping something.
So, instead of trying to stop your dog from pulling on the leash, try teaching your dog to walk beside you on a loose leash. Instead of stopping your dog from barking or lunging at other dogs, teach your dog to calmly look at other dog while you are out on a walk. Instead of stopping your dog from counter surfing, teach your dog to go to her spot. Think constructively rather than defensively and watch your relationship with your dog positively transform. If you are having a hard time making the shift with a particularly troublesome behavior, please reach out to the trainers at DogBoy’s. We will help you reframe, set appropriate training goals and develop a plan of action to move you and your dog towards success.