When I begin a new class I always ask my students what their most pressing problems are. In puppy classes, these are pretty predictable, but in my more advanced classes and my “growly dog” classes there is more variety. Often I find that though I am addressing different problems in these different classes, my advice is essentially the same. It boils down to this:
- Dogs do what works. If they are repeating the behavior, that behavior is being rewarded in some way. Remove the reward.
- Train an incompatible behavior. Rather than only telling them what not to do, let’s tell them what they should be doing.
- Reward good behavior and good choices. And reward them with something that is truly a reward to them.
There are very few problems that cannot be solved using this approach. You may have to look hard at how they are being reinforced, as sometimes that is not obvious to us.
The other two principles are fairly easy to incorporate into any approach.
So whether your problem is jumping up to greet people, or pulling on the leash, keeping these three principles in mind will help you develop a successful plan for dealing with the issue.