Stop Contributing to your Dog's Bad Behavior (Part 4)

Hello Suncoast! For the last several weeks we have been discussing human behaviors that actually contribute to some of the bad behaviors we see in our dogs. We have discussed the first two human behaviors that cause us issues, and this week we wrap up the series with the third and final human behavior causing us our own grief.

Human behavior #3:  Expecting too much from your dog without doing your part.
Just as a child benefits from increasing levels of education; preschool to high school and college, dogs can also benefit from increasing levels of training and practice. A dog needs training that progressively gets her skilled enough, through practice, to handle higher-level expectations, in various situations. Not only do you need your dog to come when called in your backyard, but also when out in public, at the dog park, and in other high distraction environments.

One very important thing for you to remember is the fact that dog’s do not generalize behavior the way humans do. If a dog learns ‘sit’ indoors by the couch, she probably won’t totally understand what ‘sit’ means outdoors in the grass. The dog does not carry the behavior with her like humans do; it is specific to the environment in which it was learned, and must be “re-taught” when there is any change in environment. A dog may respond when the situation is minimally distracting, but in a high distraction environment, the dog may be less likely to obey. We must prepare the dog by training a skill at an easy level in the beginning, such as inside the living room, then gradually training to a more demanding level, until we’ve reached the desired fluency.

The problem with us humans is that when a dog has practiced a behavior for a while, we often feel they’ve got it mastered, and then we become frustrated when the behavior slips in a highly distracting area. If a dog has just learned “leave it” with food in the hand, for instance, she cannot be expected to leave unattended chicken on the kitchen counter without further training. You must slowly and consistently build up the difficulty level, until you are at PhD level, so to speak.

Most of all, be patient with your dog. It can take several months to break a habit, even with consistent work. It’s not a quick fix, but through clear boundaries and expectations, your canine will be on her way to good behavior, largely through your dedicated guidance.