When working with clients, I am often asked “how do I get my dog to stop (insert behavior)?” That is a great question, but an even more important question is, what do you want your dog to do instead?
To get the answer, let’s start with the ABC’s (not the ones you learned in elementary school). In our Puppy Start Right Preschool™ and private coaching, we help people learn the ABC’s for their dog.
A = Antecedent – what is the trigger that causes the behavior
B = Behavior – what is the unwanted behavior performed by the dog
C = Consequence – what does the dog perceive as a consequence of their behavior
Let’s use an example of a dog jumping up… Your dog sees you approaching or you just get home from work (antecedent), your dog jumps up on you (behavior), and you then pat your dog, push your dog down, or verbally tell your dog to get down (consequence). Usually from your dog’s perspective, the reinforcement from patting, pushing, or verbally (even if it is a stern voice) is reinforcing enough for your dog to continue to keep jumping up on you.
So, if you don’t want your dog to jump on you, then what do you want your dog to do? Simply saying you don’t want your dog to jump up does not provide an alternative behavior for your dog to do.
Once you have determined your ABC’S, one must then look at what is motivating your dog? Is the behavior self-rewarding or reinforced by the client? Using our jumping up example, most dogs are excited that you have come home and are reinforced by the attention you give them.
Your next step is prevention or management. Can you prevent or manage the behavior humanely? Prevent the behavior from occurring. While working on the jumping up behavior, can you avoid encouraging your dog from jumping up, use a leash to help prevent jumping, and have your dog sit when they approach you? When guests come over, and you are unable to work on teaching your dog not to jump up, can you put your dog in their crate or a separate room so he cannot practice the unwanted behavior (which then manages the behavior)?
The last step is problem solving. Depending on the motivation, you can either ignore or train an alternative behavior that you would like your dog to do. Since we discussed jumping up can be attention seeking, you can turn away and ignore, walk away and reward your dog when he approaches with all four feet on the floor. You can then train your dog to sit when approaching which is an acceptable alternative behavior.
By giving your dog information about what is not acceptable behavior AND what is acceptable behavior, can prevent frustration not only for you but also your dog.
If you would like more information about our Puppy Start Right Course for puppies between the ages of 7 – 12 weeks, feel free to reach out to Leah Winter at Petal Animal Clinic, 601-584-8441.
Feel like you need a little help with the ABC’s for your dog? Email me at [email protected]