Written by Martin Deeley
Once your dog has learned a bad behavior, changing it will take considerably more time than would have been required to put in a good one. I am sure someone will have the answer to why it happens, but all too often a dog will learn a bad behavior in a split second that can be very difficult to change. Putting in a good behavior to replace it will take more time and more repetitions.
Do not feel your dog knows and will consistently offer a wanted behavior simply because he does it a few times on command. Often, we desire a behavior to be automatic with no command, such as asking a dog not to jump on guests or running through open doors. If we are consistent, that behavior will become a natural and accepted habit.
Initially we provide guiding actions, controls, and controlling equipment, such as leashes and collars. We also control with our voice and our body. Plus, we lure, reward, and reinforce the wanted behaviors to show our dog what is expected in everyday situations. Do it enough and the behavior you are guiding him into will become a habit. A well-behaved dog is simply a dog with good habits!
When training a dog, it is important that we do not make mistakes that create an unwanted behavior. Use a leash to assist. Think ahead. Do not make a big issue out of imperfections, but learn from them and work to create a better action and avoid the imperfection the next time.
We are really helping the dog to learn. The dog should come to see our actions as rewards or non-rewards — and not be fearful of us in any way. The “reward” can be praise, a treat, or another positive result. A “non-reward” does not mean punishment, but simply that you withhold the positive result. This way he will want to work with us and please us within the partnership. By thinking ahead and using common sense, we can achieve that.