The phrase How Do I Stop My Dog From, followed by— barking, biting, fleeing, peeing, pooing, chasing, chewing and just about other I N G ending word you can think of echoes around the world thousands of times a day. And while I agree it’s an important question to ask, it’s often a question of last resort.
The scope of How Do I Stop My Dog From behaving in all those ways that annoy me is beyond that of a simple blog post; however, learning a few simple things about dog behavior can help you change habits that aren’t too deeply entrenched and prevent bad habits from forming.
There is No Miracle Cure
Dog behavior does not develop in a vacuum. Inherited traits, environment, stress, reinforcement, fear, and many other factors all combine to produce behavior. When I hear words like instant, secret, magically, and other derivatives, my BS detector immediately goes off. Changing behavior takes an understanding of why the behavior is happening in the first place. Then you need, time, patience, effort, planning, consistency, and execution to extinguish it and replace it with something that’s acceptable to you.
Dog Behaviors Occur Because They Are Reinforced
Plain and simple, dogs do what works for them. An example is, “How Do I Stop My Dog From jumping on me when I come home?” It’s a cute behavior that gets the dog the attention it wants. Every time the owner gives the dog attention for jumping— the behavior is reinforced; even if the attention is something negative like pushing the dog away. An important aspect to changing any behavior is that you don’t reinforce it. If you stop reinforcing the undesired and start reinforcing an acceptable behavior, especially one that meets the needs of the original behavior, your on your way.
Dog Behaviors Occur Because They Are Allowed To
Many unwanted behaviors occur simply because the dog is not managed. If you give your dog an opportunity to interact, unsupervised, with an object of contention, whose fault is it? If your question is “How Do I Stop My Dog From peeing in the house?” and you allow them unsupervised access to your Persian rug while you’re away at work— you’ve allowed a preventable behavior to happen. Each time a dog is allowed to practice an unwanted behavior it strengthens it so that it will be harder to extinguish.
Dog Behaviors Occur Because Dogs Are Bred For Certain Jobs
While not all dogs will be perfect reflections of their breed, there are certain traits to expect. Herding dogs may herd and bark, terriers may dig and chase, and retrieves may pelt you with slobbery tennis balls from dawn to dusk. It’s important to take your dog’s breed into account and give it a job or play activity that can be a parallel outlet for its natural instincts. Allowing the dog an outlet for the natural tendencies it was bred for help keep it from developing bad habits to begin with.
While some behaviors are easier to stop than others, I suggest that in conjunction with any advice you get from TV, a blog post, a book, or friend— you consult a qualified trainer who uses positive reward based training over corrections, electronic devices, and alpha behaviors. Using positive rewards will help set you and your up for success so that you never have to search for “How Do I Stop My Dog From???” again.