If you’ve ever been in a training class with your dog then I am sure you’ve seen at least one if not all the dogs in the class do something most trainers refer to as “throwing behaviors.” This usually happens when the dog has not quite nailed something being taught and so in a frantic attempt to earn reward, they sit, spin, lay down, sit up, bark, roll over, stare, drool, and just about anything else they can think of in order to get that reward.
It’s actually a very cute and endearing to watch in these types of training situations, but there are other situations where throwing behaviors is not so cute.
Arriving at home with your arms full of groceries, you barely manage to get the door open before you are mobbed by your dog. You struggle to set the groceries down as he yaps, nips, pulls, and circles you like Indians on the warpath in a bad western. You push him away yelling no, down, and off; but these only make the dog press even harder and devise new tactics to get what he wants.
The reason for all this hyperactive behavior throwing is clear; he wants to be rewarded with your attention. He is using tactics that have worked in the past and failing those, improvising new ones in order to get what he wants.
All the pushing and yelling you do count as attention to him and only serve to make him play the game harder. And, if you are like many other dog owners, you may follow this immediately with a Kong filled treat or other goodies in order to calm the situation for a while; or maybe your remedy is to open the back door and go let him run around in the yard to burn of some steam.
The problem boils down to this— dogs resort to whatever behavior works for them to get the things they want. Just like a child throwing a temper tantrum, they don’t have self-control and use loud and obnoxious behaviors to achieve results.
So in order for us to avoid having to deal with their default behaviors we need to instill the defaults. Fortunately going about this is quite practical and easy using some simple techniques and employing some good old fashioned patience.
A great guideline for implementing this type of training is Dr. Sophia Yin’s Learn to Earn Program. This article along with a free poster that go over some simple measures that will help you practice positive leadership with your dog and teach them some impulse control at the same time. It has the added benefit of installing default behaviors in our dogs that are acceptable to us and allows our dogs to look to us for further direction instead of coming up with their own.
The poster is free for download and I highly recommend its methods as a great way to get off on the right foot with your dog.