DOG BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS

Every dog has its own character and temperament.  These factors interact with the dog’s experiences and have an enormous influence on how the dog views the world around him and therefore on how he behaves.

 

COMMON BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS

The most common problems that I am called out to help owners to resolve are:

Separation anxiety, various forms of aggression, pulling on the lead, jumping up, stealing, noise sensitivity, running off, excessive barking, soiling in the house…
– and especially:
reacting to dogs, people or children on the walk, reacting to or controlling visitors.

WHY DOGS DISPLAY BAD BEHAVIOUR

He doesn’t know what you want, so you have to show him.  Because dogs don’t use human logic, it’s surprisingly easy to confuse the dog as to his role and what you need him to do.  If you then use the same human logic in an attempt to correct the undesired behaviour, this will further increase your dog’s confusion and make his behaviour worse – because you are reinforcing the unwanted behaviour by giving him attention.

KEY TRAINING PRINCIPLES

Behaviour such as whining, jumping up, stealing, nipping, even soiling, can be due to the dog having realised that when he repeats this behaviour, he gets your attention.  If you look at him, or speak to him when he does these things, you are thereby reinforcing the problem behaviour because he gets your attention.  Attention on any basis will result in him repeating these actions.

JUMPING UP

For instance, your dog jumps up and you tell him to “get down!”  Human logic suggests that your dog should now realise that you don’t want him to jump up because you are telling him off.  However your dog will quickly realise that when he jumps up, he gets your attention because you speak to him and look at him when he does this.  Rather than correcting the unwanted behaviour, you are actually reinforcing it.  You are showing him it is worthwhile jumping up at you because he gets your attention when he does so.

CORRECTING DOG BEHAVIOUR

Correcting unwanted behaviour is very different to obedience training.  When you give your dog a command, you are making a request – you are asking him to sit, stay, recall etc.  That’s obedience training.  He’s not doing anything undesirable in these situations.

When correcting unwanted behaviour, you are not asking your dog to do something, you want him to STOP doing it.  You can’t correct the unwanted behaviour by giving him a command to “stop it!” because your dog will misinterpret your intention.  He will realise that when he repeats the behaviour, he gets you to speak to him, just as he did when you were training him to “Sit”.

UNLOCKING YOUR DOG’S UNDERSTANDING

A lot of owners completely ignore their dog when he is being perfectly behaved.  As soon as their dog does something they don’t like, they say “No!”, “Leave it!” or “Get Down!”  It’s no wonder that their dog is confused!

The key to unlocking your dog’s understanding is to praise him when he gets it right.  Give him eye contact and enthusiastic praise, perhaps even food reward in the early stages.  Make his tail wag!  Even if he is lying quietly, praise him because you approve of the way he is behaving.  Don’t worry that he gets up and comes over to you, praise him for that as well, he has recalled to you when you spoke to him, just as he should!

He isn’t going to know that he is doing something you don’t approve of unless you show him that the behaviour is not required – but in a way he can understand.

The moment he demonstrates undesirable behaviour, your response will be very different.  Instantly turn off your attention, avoid any eye contact and don’t speak to him.  You need to be really prompt when responding to your dog to give him a clear message.  Just ignoring the behaviour is not a very effective way of correcting it.

Your dog will learn by the consequence of his actions, just as he learned that jumping up got him attention.  To correct jumping up, promptly yet calmly guide him away with your hand.  The instant all four paws are back on the floor, look at him and praise him enthusiastically.  If he jumps in response, turn the attention instantly off again and guide him away again.  Consistency is the key here, so always correct him promptly in the same calm way.

HOW YOU RESPOND IS KEY

Because dogs don’t think like humans, it is important to stay calm at all times when in contact with your dog.  He needs to feel safe when he is with you and he can’t do that with an owner who demonstrates to him that they can’t cope.

Be totally consistent when applying your training or corrections.  Always correct in the same, calm, positive way.

Don’t get cross with him.  Don’t shout at him.  It’s not his fault if he doesn’t understand what you want.  If he didn’t understand that time, just calmly show him again when he repeats the behaviour.  If he has been showing the behaviour for some time, he is not going to change it the first time you show him, he will need confirmation.  If it’s the way you are showing him that needs reviewing, what are you doing wrong?  Is it your timing too slow?  Are you trying to make too much progress too quickly?  Are you in an environment that is too distracting for your dog?  Or does your approach need to change?  Contact me if you would like some help with this.