There are two ways that people sabotage their dog and their dog’s training:
- Accidentally rewarding things we don’t want.
- Accidentally punishing things we do want.
How is this possible? Let me paint a picture for you…
You come home from a long day at the office and Penny is super excited to see you! She’s jumping all over you as you walk in the door and try to put your stuff down. You continuously push her off you in hope that she’ll get a clue and stop jumping.
Sound familiar? Let’s break it down from the dog’s perspective:
OMG! Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!!! I waited all day for this! I love it when daddy comes home! Hey. He’s kind of ignoring me. Maybe he can’t see me. I’ll just jump up a little to see if that helps. HI DADDY! Yay! Pets and attention! It worked! Daddy is giving me attention. Wait a second. I’m on the floor again and he can’t see me anymore. Let me see if that jumping thing works again… YAY! It’s working! He’s paying attention to me!! Note to self: To get dad’s attention, I must jump up so he can see me better.
You open the front door to collect a package off your porch. Little Fido runs out the door and right to traffic. You’re panicking because a car is coming. You call Fido just before he starts to get to the road and he starts coming back to you. With a mixture of relief and adrenaline from panic, you scold Fido from going out the door. “Bad dog! Don’t scare mommy like that! Bad! Get inside! Now!”
Has something like that happened to you before? It’s a completely normal human reaction. We get so swept up in our emotions that the logical part of our brain can’t even function anymore. Let’s break it down from the dog’s perspective:
Yippee! The door is open! Let’s go smell stuff! YAY! RUNNING! WHEEE!!! Oh wait. Mom is calling. Better go see what she wants. Tra-la-la going back to mom. OMG. Mom is screaming at me. What the heck?! Why is she acting completely crazy?! Sheesh. Next time mom calls me I don’t think I’m going to go over to her! Who knows what sort of crazy behavior she might do!!
In Scenario 1 we have accidentally rewarded the dog for jumping by giving her our attention. In order to fix the situation, it is important to ignore your dog when they are jumping on you (as much as humanly possible). Then, once they give up, shower them with pets, attention, and love. They will quickly learn that the best way to get your attention is to stay standing or sitting and that jumping on you never works for getting attention.
In the case of Scenario 2, we have accidentally punished the dog for coming when called. Whenever you punish or reward a dog, you are punishing or rewarding the behavior that came immediately before the consequence. To fix this, always think about what was the last behavior my dog did? Do I want to reward that behavior? In the above example, we should be praising our dog for coming when called–even though he just gave us a heart attack!!
Have any scenarios similar to these happened to you? Tell me about them in the comments!
Do you need help teaching your dog a polite greeting or a reliable recall? Book your training appointment today!