Barking, jumping, pawing and nipping by our dogs are attention-seeking behaviors that are annoying to us and others.
Unwittingly, we often reward them when we mean to eradicate their behavior. This is done by verbally or physically attempting to correct the behavior, but not following through with any appropriate consequences.
For example, if your dog jumps on you and you push him away with your hands, you are inadvertently rewarding him with touch.
Or if you correct barking by saying “Quiet,” you have stopped doing what you were doing and are paying attention to the dog, but without showing any consequence for his having barked.
Consequences can be very mild, such as a water spray bottle for barking or moving away from the dog who is jumping. In any of these cases, however, redirecting with a positive option works best as a first choice before using a negative.
Instead of using your hands to push a dog away, teach him the Sit or Down cue in order to get petting from you. That way you can reward with touch, or even a treat, for doing something positive. It is best used preemptively by working repetitively on the positive skills you want him to exhibit. Over time, your dog will lie down or sit for attention rather than jumping on you.
Barking, for example, is best redirected after the “Quiet” cue by giving him a toy to chew on, which keeps his mouth busy. Or, give him something to chew on when he is bored to prevent him from barking to begin with.
This should be become much more preferable than having water sprayed in his face. Reward the behaviors you want and make a consequence for the behaviors you don’t want.
If you are not consistent with your dog’s rules, then he will rule you by becoming demanding and exhibiting any number of behaviors we find annoying. Do not give up on a specific technique, but you might need to consult with a trainer to find new approaches for a willful or challenging dog.
Do not get angry or the dog wins – but make sure everyone within the family is consistent with the methods of teaching the dog what does get attention and what does not.
If you are persistent, your dog will learn what does get him what he wants, and he will be much easier to live with.
Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com