Stop Contributing to your Dog's Bad Behavior (Part 2)

Hello Suncoast! Last week we began the series “Stop Contributing to Your Dog’s Bad Behavior.” I promised to uncover three human behaviors that greatly contribute to seeing undesirable behavior from our dogs, or that hinder us from getting the results we covet. This week we will discuss the first human behavior that causes us problems.

Human Behavior #1: Focusing on eliminating bad behaviors, rather than reinforcing the desired ones.
Punishment based interactions, or force based corrections tend to be harmful to your relationship with your dog. Over time these types of interactions will begin to create fear in your dog. Research has long proven forceful or coercive techniques induce fear, and in turn, fear is likely to produce aggression. To add to that, punishment is rarely done right. It’s usually given too late and is too broad for the animal to pinpoint what she did wrong. Dogs can also become accustomed to the punishment, therefore requiring greater intensity and frequency over time. Perhaps, the most important reason not to use coercive or forceful punishment is that eventually the dog begins to make negative associations with the punisher. The punishment will likely make the dog averse to humans, rather than diminishing the behavior entirely.

Instead of punishing your dog, use positive reinforcement, and keep it consistent with the entire family. Reinforcement can include treats, toys, praise, a play session, or anything else the dog deems important. It takes a shift in your mind to focus on the good, and what you desire to have happen; then rewarding your dog for those behaviors. Reward all of the desired behaviors your dog already does, and that you want to see repeated. Train toward the new behaviors you want to see, rather than focusing on eliminating undesirable ones. Also, look at replacement strategies for channeling natural behavior in dogs. For example, if you have a problem chewer, offer acceptable chewing alternatives such as a stuffed Kong, and pick your shoes up off the floor.

You have the ability to give and take away everything that is important to your dog. You can shape behavior by simple applications of giving and taking away what is important to your dog, rather than doling out forceful or painful consequences. Come back next week as we discuss the second human behavior that is contributing to your dog’s undesirable ones.