Does your dog pull you when you go for walks?
Got a dog who barks in the crate until you finally let it out?
What about the loving jumper who is all over you when you get home from work?
If you smiled awkwardly and said yes to any of these, congratulations! You are the owner of a dog who is quite the accomplished trainer, and has done a wonderful job at training YOU!
The Reality Of What You Have Been Doing
When they are little puppies you think its cute.
Then they get a little older and while not so cute, you subscribe to the false truth that they will “grow out of it”.
Then they become full grown and you put on your bathing suit and for a swim in The Nile, convincing yourself its all ok and you like the barking, biting, nipping, and jumping.
Then by act of a greater power, you realize, its not ok.
You have finally come to the point where you no longer can tolerate that which you have been not only allowing, but actually reinforcing. Yes, you read that correctly and hopefully you know what I mean when I say reinforcing because you have read my article that explains it (click HERE to play catch-up).
For You All Who Have Trained Your Dog TO PULL
This is such a common issue I’m going to pick on you all for this example to help everybody understand what’s going on here.
If at any point in your dog’s life you took a single step forward while the dog was pulling, you effectively “taught” the dog to pull you.
The dog wants to go forward towards, well, towards anything. For this example lets be cliche’ and say that red fire hydrant twenty yards in front of you.
So the dog wants to hurry off to the fire hydrant on her own terms at her own speed, which happens to be much faster than you are currently going. The moment the dog puts tension on the leash, and feels the resistance we can all agree is a state of “pulling”.
When you take a step in the direction of the pulling, what have you communicated to the dog?
What did your reaction, your response to the dog “pulling” say to the dog?
Have you even reflected upon what you did enough to identify it?
The instant the dog put forward pressure on that tight leash, you took a step in the direction of the pressure. Congratulations! You are the proud owner of a dog that is an excellent trainer!
Your dog has trained you to follow it rather effectively hasn’t it?
Each and every step in the direction of the pulling reinforces the pulling itself. So when you finally decide to “stop” this obnoxious behavior, you have quite the challenge on your hands because you have actually been teaching the dog to do it since day one.
It’s o.k. to be wrong. At some point or another we all will be wrong, and to be honest, it will be more than a couple times.
I am always reminding everyone that their mistakes often times stem from the simple reality that dogs do not come with instruction books (that’s why I wrote one, and its FREE, click HERE to get it). The reason I make this point repeatedly is so that folks don’t get discouraged and remain.
Take Some Time To Think
With that rather vivid example, you should take some time to reflect.
Think about the behaviors you have convinced yourself are ok, you know, the ones that really aren’t but you gave up trying to fix them and instead brainwashed yourself to accept them.
How might you have been reinforcing them?
The list of questions at the beginning of this article are the most common behaviors I am asked about which is why I mentioned them. Each one is also a behavior that almost always has been reinforced by the owner.
Now That You Know What’s Happening It’s Time To Change
You can no longer use the excuse of ignorance. You have just been told why your dog is doing what it’s doing. The truth might not have tasted good, but if our goal is to have the best possible relationship with our dogs, then truth is what we need regardless of how palatable it might not be.
You have done the thinking and identified how you are contributing to your dog’s bad behavior. The first step is simple.
Stop reinforcing the things you want to see go away.
Depending on how severe the behavior is, you will have mixed results. For a mild to low energy dog who is has only recently been, jumping, for example. Negative punishment, removing your attention in this case, when the dog jumps should work fairly quickly when combined with positive reinforcement for when the dog finally chills out and sits.
A higher energy dog, or a behavior that has been going on for a while is going to be a bigger challenge. There are no tricks or shortcuts and it will take time, patience, and in some cases, professional guidance.
Either way, now you at least have a better understanding of why these issues are not going away.
If you want to address the pulling, click HERE for a YouTube video I did that will be a HUGE help in getting you started!!