Troubleshooting “Bad” Behavior

The first thing to consider when you are trying to stop bad behavior in your dog is why the dog is doing what she is doing.  Dogs do what works so if they get rewarded for something they will do it again. 

  • It may be obvious what the reward is for counter surfing (the dog gets your sandwich), or harder to detect with a behavior that is self-rewarding, such as some forms of barking. 
  • Food, attention, getting to go outside, getting to sniff or chase something are good examples of things your dog may find rewarding.
  • Dogs are not spiteful.  They do not do things because they are angry.  They do not understand money and don't put the same value you do on your brand-new leather sofa, $200 pair of shoes, or $2000 carpet. 

Figured out why they are doing the thing you don't like then the next step is to decide on a plan for how to stop it.  A good plan has three parts – management, teaching an alternate behavior, and maintaining the good behavior. 

Management- 

  • Create a plan to deal with inappropriate behavior, and it simply means preventing the behavior as much as possible while you work on training. 
  • The idea is not to give your dog the chance to practice the bad behavior because “practice makes perfect”.  Every time your dog practices the bad behavior, it becomes more of a habit, and will be harder to change. 

Alternate B ehavior- 

  • Teach what you would like your dog to do. 
  • It is important when choosing an alternate behavior that you find one, they cannot physically do while performing the behavior you don’t like.  For instance, “sit” is not an appropriate alternate behavior to “barking” because a dog can sit and bark at the same time. 

Maintaining the Behavior-

  • Make it a way of life for you and your dog!    It involves incorporating the new behavior into everyday life and continuing to reward your dog for doing the right thing.  
  • Always remember to praise good behavior and ignore bad behavior as much as possible and set your dog up to succeed.  

If you follow these steps, and have a little patience, you will be well on your way to solving any problem behavior in your dog!

Important Points to Remember

  • Ask yourself why your dog is doing the thing you don’t like and what the reward is
  • Prevent the behavior as much as you can
  • Teach an alternate behavior that is physically incompatible with the one you don’t like
  • Praise good behavior, ignore bad behavior

 


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