Does your dog bark, jump up, dig, pull on leash, or perform some other unwanted behavior? The good news, according to many training “experts” is that solving these problems is easy.
If you want to solve any behavior problem your dog might have, all you have to do is remember one simple rule: dogs repeat behaviors that pay off for the dog. That is, if the behavior is reinforced, the dog will continue to repeat the behavior. Let’s say, for example, that your dog greets you by jumping up on you and you respond by yelling and pushing him away. If, despite your response, your dog continues to jump on you, then your behavior (yelling and pushing, which are both forms of attention) is actually reinforcing your dog and he will continue to jump to greet you. To stop the unwanted behavior, remove the reinforcer, (i.e. your attention). Instead of yelling and pushing, stand perfectly still until your dog stops jumping and has four-on-the-floor, preferably in a sitting position, then pet him. Easy right? Wrong. Read on…..
Although the concept of removing whatever is reinforcing the behavior and rewarding a more appropriate behavior sounds easy, the actual application of it can be a bit more difficult in real life because it is hard to be consistent. For example, you tell yourself before you walk inside the house that you are going to ignore your dog and just wait it out until he sits. You have it all planned out in your head. You are going to stand as still and silent as a tree until he sits, no matter what. Then, you walk inside the house, your arms full of groceries and your dog, as usual, persistently jumps up on you. You stand still even as the groceries begin to weigh heavy in your arms. Soon your dog starts whining and jumping and getting even more carried away and, in one of his exuberant jumps up, snags his nails across your arm causing it to bleed. “OUCH” you yell as you walk over to the counter, put the bags down and perform first-aid treatment to your arm. Your dog is even more excited now that you have spoken and moved and he continues to jump on you. You turn to him and yell “NO” and push him off. “AH HA” your dog thinks….”all I have to do is persist to get your attention”. Now, your jumping problem becomes even worse and just waiting it out will become even harder to do.
Ok, so maybe this scenario is a bit extreme, but you get the idea; stuff happens. And when stuff happens, consistency goes out the window and so does your training. So, what do the training experts suggest you do? They simply tell you to start being consistent. Wait? What? We already know that in real-life consistency isn’t likely to happen. So are you supposed to just live with an out-of-control dog and hope he calms down with age? No, of course not. There are things you can do to improve your dog’s behavior. Training is one of those things, and yes, when you train, you need to be as consistent as possible. For the behaviors you do decide to train, your training plan needs to be set up in a manner that fits with your individual lifestyle so that you can be as consistent as possible. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to training. If you are having trouble being consistent in your training, it is a good idea to consult with a trainer who can help you develop a plan that will work for you. Any really good trainer will look at all the variables in your life and put together a personalized plan that you can stick to.