Are you training your dog to be naughty?

Many of us have heard the saying, ‘there are no bad dogs, just bad owners’ and while nobody is suggesting that owners are especially bad when it comes to their dog’s behaviour, we do sometimes inadvertently cause our dogs to misbehave! (But we won’t tell Fido that!).

Many owners will be familiar with daily exasperation’s of dog owning life; pulling on the lead, leaping up, begging at the table, chewing, –  all manner of irritations that we often blame on the dog.  Even as a dog trainer myself, I cannot say I haven’t been guilty of this on a few occasions.  We all do it because sometimes it just happens by accident and our dogs are just as clever at learning the things we want to them to, as they are doing things we don’t want!

dog sitting, pet sittingPicture the scenario.  Its walk time; you’re in a hurry and Fido is super excited the minute he sees those shoes and the jangle of his lead.  You’re in a rush, but it’s also kind of cute that Fido looks so happy, bouncing up and down, tongue lolling.  You grapple to get the lead on, (no time to spend teaching him to sit still right now), he yanks you out of the door and off you tumble down the road.  The next time you head out, Fido’s behaviour seems more intense than the last time and so on and so forth.  Why?  Because his efforts, (bouncing, spinning, pulling) are rewarded by getting what he wants – to explore the great outdoors – one of the biggest incentives for any dog.  Reinforcing your dog in terms of dog training we know is all about treats and toys, but anything can be rewarding for your dog in the right circumstances.

Begging at the table is another classic.  It seems that Fido only needs to receive one sneaky crust beneath the tablecloth and he will sit and drool until the tenth of never.  Some people may even figure, if they give the dog just one titbit, he will go away and stop pestering, when in actual fact he is being reinforced for doing the very thing you (say) you don’t want him to do.  And its SO hard to resist those begging eyes; trust me, I know!

For some dogs, even being shouted at it is more exciting than being ignored and for others barking at the door is even more fun when the owner joins in!

And that’s another thing we do.  We are apt to punish our dogs for doing good things?  What’s that all about?!  We call Fido to us, for which he duly obliges, but all that happens is he gets put on the lead or in the car, or in his crate.  Fido learns that rubbish things always happen even though he’s done as he is told, so very soon you get a dog that won’t come back when he’s called!  OK, this might be only part of the reason, but it’s quite a significant one.

Sometimes we have to stop and think dog.  If you think your dog is behaving badly, take a little time to think about why.  Is he just being bad or might we have accidentally encouraged the behaviour without even really thinking?

There are few little tips to bear in mind when considering this;

If you are really pleased with what Fido just did – did you reward him appropriately for it? i.e. you called him back to you.  Did you put him on the lead without saying anything and head for home, or did you praise and reward him?

If you are not so pleased with Fido’s behaviour, did you in fact reward him for it? i.e. He was barging and trying to push through the door, but to avoid tripping over him, you opened the door and let him go out before you, (reward).

It’s definitely food for thought because accidentally teaching our dogs to do naughty things is easily done and we’ve all been guilty of it at some point.  The good news is, while it might have been better not to let it happen in the first place, our dogs are usually pretty clever at learning what we really want of them and I’m pretty sure, would never lay the blame at our door!