Stopping Undesirable Behaviours

Stopping Undesirable Behaviours… What DO you want?

Roberta Press, Lead Trainer, CPDT-KA

Clients often ask us the fol­low­ing ques­tion: How do I get my dog to stop [fill in the blank]?

This could be “stop jump­ing on peo­ple”, “stop charg­ing and bark­ing at the door when some­one knocks”, “stop bug­ging us at the din­ner table”… Go ahead and fill in the blank with what­ev­er naughty behav­iour you’d love your dog to stop doing!

Unfor­tu­nate­ly this is usu­al­ly the wrong ques­tion.

We need to turn this ques­tion around. I often ask, “What would you like your dog to be doing instead?”

If you can’t answer this ques­tion, if YOU don’t even know what you’d rather your dog be doing, how can your dog know?

So let’s turn this around. Bet­ter ques­tions would be: “How do I teach my dog to sit when being approached by some­one for pet­ting?” “How do I train my dog to go lie down in their bed when some­one knocks on the door?” or “How do I teach my dog to set­tle on a mat when we’re eat­ing din­ner?”

THIS we can help you with!

Of note, if you decide to pun­ish a naughty behav­iour you might get that behav­iour to stop, but then your dog will fill in the void with some­thing else… And that some­thing else could be just as unde­sir­able! Good lead­er­ship is teach­ing what you DO want, right from the start!

1540384_765049730227706_9019924713423941690_oSo here’s a prob­lem I was faced with recent­ly… My younger dog, Ojo (the black one in the pho­to), loves to explore the world. This is a prob­lem for me because when I let the dogs out of the back of my car in the dri­ve­way they are not in an enclosed, safe area. While my neigh­bours are very nice, it’s real­ly not desir­able (or safe!) for my dog to be romp­ing through their yard, bark­ing up their tree at squir­rels, or pok­ing around in their gar­den.

For a while I was sim­ply putting her on a leash to get from the car to the back gate. This is man­age­ment, not train­ing, and it worked just fine… Except when I had an arm­load of dog tow­els and dog­gy water bot­tles and my daughter’s vio­la. So I decid­ed to turn the prob­lem around. What DID I want?

I have now giv­en my dogs a job. Their job, when I release them from the back of my car, is to get to the back gate AS FAST AS POSSIBLE, and wait. It helps that the back gate is at the top of some stairs and sur­round­ed on three sides, pro­vid­ing a visu­al bar­ri­er once my dogs are com­mit­ted to the action.

I won’t describe how I trained this (although if you’re inter­est­ed let me know!). But I am pleased to say that I can now release my dogs from the car and they know what they are sup­posed to do — run to the back gate! And bin­go, just like that — no more romps through the neighbour’s yard!

So if you’re frus­trat­ed with some­thing your dog is doing, a behav­iour that you’d like to STOP, I’d encour­age you to try turn­ing the prob­lem around. In most cas­es the eas­i­est way to stop a behav­iour is not actu­al­ly to stop it at all, but rather to teach your dog to do some­thing else instead!

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