Owners all seem to understand, how important it is to praise good behavior and correct bad behavior. But what happens when clients inadvertently praise their dogs for unwanted behavior? It's a common problem that many dog owners face, but it can be addressed with some simple education and guidance.
Inadvertent Praising: dog owners reenforcing unwanted behaviors from their pups without realizing they are doing it. Usually because they are trying to treat there dog to much like they would a child.
Inadvertent Praising breaks down into 2 basic categories:
- Inadvertently Praising Fear:
- For example, dog acts fearful (of people, entering a doorway, thunder, the wind blowing, etc.) be it pulling away, hiding, shaking. What happen when owners see this, they pet them, pull them into our laps or get on the floor with them and say in a nice high tone it is ok don't be afraid it is just thunder, that person is nice, it is just the wind, etc. Unfortunately you will never be able to explain thunder, why that person is ok, or that they are at a safe place; to your dog. But that high toned talking “verbal praise” and petting “physical praise” of the petting is again telling the pup they are doing the right thing and should act that way. This can create a vicious cycle where the dog becomes more fearful over time, and the owner feels helpless to break the cycle.
- What you should do instead:
- At a minimum if you feel your dog is afraid you should do nothing. Remain calm and neutral this means not coddling, soothing, or giving extra attention to the dog. If they see their leader calm and not fazed by it they may follow.
- If possible meaning you have the dog on a leash and room to move, try to distract the dog by getting them moving.
- And best of all if you have amazing obedience give them commands to redirect their attention to something more productive.
- Now as long as your dog does said command and holds this is where you can finally praise physically, verbally, or with food. Making sure they dog is getting praised for complying not for the fear.
- Inadvertently Praising Other Unwanted Behaviors:
- This one is much wider, meaning everything from jumping on and licking people to reactivity and aggression. An example would be your dog sees whatever it is reactive toward (dog, people, kids, bikes, cars, etc.) they start to bark and you start petting them and tell they it is ok or pick them up and pet them telling them it is ok or to stop in a high tone. Speaking to in high tones is verbal praise, petting is physical praise, this is why reactivity/fear/aggression gets worse as this is repeated every time the pup has a reaction.
- Even a simpler one I see every day is jumping. The dog jumps on you and you push them off and almost hold them on the floor so they can can not jump again, but pet them while dong this.
- What to do instead:
- Since these are usually derogatory things you want to stop you need a way to tell your pup that it is unwanted behavior without trying to explain to the dog why it is unwanted since the dogs vocabulary is not that advanced. Have your single word off, no, stop, etc. Keep it simple and use this one word for anything your dog does that you do not like.
- Next try to physically correct the dog if possible for said behavior. If it is jumping push off to the side. If they are pulling turn their head away from the distraction. Etc.
- Now praise as soon as they stop. If they stop licking you and just look at you praise. If they look at you and not the distraction, praise. If they don’t jump back on you, praise. Etc.
In our opinion, behavior cannot be modified without having complete trust and control of your dog. Behavioral modification and obedience go hand in hand. As you are working through any of our programs, we will also be working on the specific issues you may be facing with your dog.
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