Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The WORD is out!

The WORD is out!

While the WORD is out it still requires listening to it and reading it.  What word?  Positive.  Actually, there are many words involved and NO! is not one of them.  BAD DOG! doesn’t qualify either.  Saying:  Did you do THAT? can backfire big time so toss that from your selection of words.  Using “the” word means that one doesn’t scold pups for defecating on the Oriental rug, destroying the chair leg, and eating things that are not good for it.  It means that you start using words like:  Good dog!  But you have to be on the alert for all the good things every dog does!

Do I hear moans and groans and even louder sounds suggesting such a program is nuts?  Oh, to be sure I am hearing those sounds – I hear them regularly.  And always from people who are absolutely certain their dog knows exactly what it is supposed to do and refuses to do it.   What is usually stated that justifies the person’s scolding and punishment is that the dog has been told over and over and should understand it by now.  And, the all time biggee is:  He knows he did the wrong thing because he runs off as soon as I come in the room.  Hmmm.  Well, if the dog did understand  and was rewarded for the proper behavior I can guarantee that the dog would be doing what you want.  And, if you are interested in changing your mind I can give you a way to prove that your dog is not associating its (“bad”)  behavior with what you are observing.  Honest.

The people from whom I never hear those words are people who have begun to understand just how animals really do learn.  Those animals, incidentally, include humans.  Possibly I need to add – people who do not say those words “understand” how animals really do learn in the best possible way.

In order to apply the methods of positive training it is important to learn alternatives to all the training methods you may have been using.  We teach the proper behavior rather than punish what is not wanted.  Ignoring what is undesirable is probably the most difficult concept for people to grasp.  That means that it will be a challenge to stop saying NO! to a pup that is jumping on your guests.  It means that you have to stop pushing the dog off of you as you say NO!  It means you have to stop hollering, spraying your dog in the face with water, it means not shoving your dog’s face in excrement left on your rug and it most certainly means not using your hands for anything except good stuff.  Incidentally – only your dog can tell you what the good stuff things are.  Observe your dog!!!  If you are big into pats and even thumps on her rump you are most assuredly NOT praising your dog.

As you change your approach – and I most certainly hope you do so – keep in mind just how difficult it is to make those changes.  Then, think of your dog.  How much more difficult it probably is for her to change behavior:  such as to trust you not to punish her.  Or to trust that you will use your hands only to touch gently and in places that SHE likes.

So, your assignment is to come up with all the things that you like about your dog and find ways to let her know that.  Best ways include “marking” that behavior (saying Yes!, for example or, as I teach, proper use of a “clicker”) so that she knows exactly what is correct, and offering a tasty treat.  Once she sees there is a  positive way of life, learn how to apply this to any and all things you really want her to do.  Those things include using a specific area for elimination, resting in appropriate places compared to your favorite chair, chewing on appropriate bones and toys, greeting guests with “4 on the floor”, and much, much more.

Seeing those Aha! moments are rewards enough for those who really want to learn “the word”.


*If there is a sudden behavior change it is always necessary to investigate a health issue.  Sudden house soiling for example can result from bladder infections, parasites and even from stress if there have been major changes in the household.

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