Hello everyone. It’s time for the Suncoast Dog Blog once again. We have been discussing human behaviors that actually contribute to, rather than stop, bad behavior in our dogs. Last week we discussed human behavior number one, which is focusing on eliminating bad behavior, rather than reinforcing the desired behavior. This week we move on to the second human behavior that is causing us problems.
Human Behavior #2: Lack of consistency and clear expectations.
Dogs, much like children, need consistent guidance from the people in their lives. Dogs thrive when there is routine and consistent patterns of behavior. Without consistency, the dog’s world is in chaos, and it shows through her behavior. It’s unfair for the dog to have the rules change from person to person. This means that everyone in the household should follow the same rules, use the same hand signals, the same voice commands, etc. It does no good for the dog to be allowed on the couch by Junior, but Senior does not allow it. One helpful hint is to have a family meeting to discuss and agree upon the “house rules.” Make the house rules as a family and be consistent across the board. If something is OK with one person and not another, it becomes very confusing to the dog. The more predictable a dog’s life, with clear boundaries, and rewards only for certain behaviors, the better behaved the dog is likely to be.
Everyone who interacts with the dog inside or outside the family needs to be on the same page with how the dog is treated and trained. The dog also needs consistent consequences for her undesirable behavior, otherwise, the positive reinforcement for good behavior loses strength. In addition, the management of unwanted behaviors, like pulling on the leash and jumping up, needs to remain unrewarded by all people. If the behavior is rewarded by even one person in the dog’s life, the dog will be resistant to change. The hope of a reward, even if it is infrequent, increases persistence in the dog. Expectations, consequences and structure need to be as consistent as possible among everyone in the family.
Comeback next week as we discuss the third and final human behavior that is contributing to the undesirable outcomes you see in your dog’s behavior. See you then!