INTERRUPTION & REDIRECTION: Solve any Problem using this Formula.by Michelle St Germain on 12/10/12
There are so many behavioral problems experienced by dogs and their people now a days. Usually it is more a problem for the owner then it is the dog. Since they are too numerous to list, we will focus on the most common problems. Some pet dogs have either one really big issue where others have many smaller ones. All breeds experience them at one time or another. Whether you are a first time dog owner or an experienced trainer, behavior issues do not discriminate. Some people choose to just live with them while others believe the dog will grow out of it. These constant problems on a daily basis cause a lot of strain and stress in both the owners and the dogs lives. Whether you have an older dog or a younger pup, the life span of our canine pals is increasing, averaging 12 years and sometimes as old as 15 years. That is a long time to cope with some of these issues. A lot of them can be fixed with general management and prevention while others require desensitization and retraining the dog. This will lower the stress levels of both the people and the dogs. How does that sound? To many it may be music to their ears, to others it sounds like a lot of work that they don't want to commit time to. In the end, it is your life, but if you find yourself resenting even disliking the dog in your life then maybe it is time to change something.
Dogs are aquired in 90% of homes as a family companion. When problems are left untreated or unmangaged a huge stress is put onto the family unit. The dog becomes a constant source of fighting and angst. The dog is ignored and things then become worse until the dog is euthanized or rehomed. Most problem dogs find themselves in a shelter or a new family by the time they are 2 years old. The height of adolescence, the teenagers of the canine world. Unruly, obnoxious and just plain naughty. They are impossible to live with as they destroy the house, dig up the yard, chase the kids, bark at everything in sight and fight with other dogs.
Often when these dogs are given up, people are so embarrased with the situation they give the dog away under false pretenses. The unsuspecting new owners soon learns that there were never any allergies forcing this dog to leave but a colorful array of other things. The problems have now been passed onto someone else. Let me first start by saying "shame on you". This should never happen. Absolute honesty needs to be given when giving away or selling any dog. Why should someone else suffer for your failure? This is so frustrating to me, as you may have been able to tell.
It is not rocket science when it comes to dog training. Sure, some people make it look as easy as pie, and that is because it is. The trick is that it takes time and plenty of practice with your dog. Dogs are very simple minded creatures. Humans give them more credit then they deserve for rationalization and intellectual complexity. They can be taught just about anything under the sun, I recently saw a video of dogs driving cars...Crazy yes, but true. I hope these dogs are not being hired out for Operation Red Nose over the holiday season. That being said the methods are easy, its the time that needs to be committed that is the real hard part. Dogs for one, do not carry grudges nor do I beleive they do things out of Spite or Jealousy. They do what works for them. If it keeps working then they keep on doing it. All behaviours are reinforcing in some way to your dog, that is why he keeps repeating the same crime over and over again.
Digging up the yard, barking out the window, counter surfing and repetitive running away are perfect examples of self rewarding behaviours. This means that the dog does not need YOU to reward him for doing them, he simply rewards himself. We keep leaving Muffin in the yard unsupervised so she happily re landscapes the garden for you. You will not be happy with the new changes but Muffin thinks they are real grand. Stealing your dinner off the counter is a behaviour that speaks for itself. Hamburgers and grilled cheese are way better than dog kibble. The one time he was allowed to jump up and steal a morsel of human food was the day that it becomes a daily ritual of counter top patrol. Buddy gets a tasty treat everytime he jumps up there and checks. Why on earth would he ever stop checking? Humans keep leaving things there for him to eat & no consequences ever happens at the time of the stealing.
So how do we outwit, outsmart and even out play these crafty canines. Well, it is absolutly a game of Survivor. If he is constantly on the counter, don't leave him in there and go take a shower. When you are eating or preparing food ban him from the kitchen. If he is redecorating the yard, then don't leave him out there to do so, build him a run! If Tyson has eaten through the basement drywall and 7 couches, crate him when you go to work or take him to doggy daycare.
One of the things that needs to be investigated with these crazy dogs is how much exercise are they even getting on a daily basis. Sadly, you don't want to know the answer to that. We often fail to commit to the exercise requirements of these dogs. Especially the working breeds. Labradors, Retreivers, Boxers and Shepherds were not meant to sit around all day with nothing to do. They do not utilize that large back yard you have like you claim they do. They need daily physical and mental stimulation. We get dogs most of the time based on looks, personality and the old "I had that breed as a kid" reason. But can we offer what these dogs truly need from us? When you were a kid with a German Shepherd you didn't have a full time job or 4 children to focus on. You do now, so how will this dog fit into that chaos already? He cannot exercise himself so it falls on you to get the job done. Every dog regardless of breed, sex & temperment needs on average 45 to 60 minutes a day. Younger dogs sometimes more. Increase the exercise and often the problems get considerably better.
Behavioural problems are often a signal that something else in the dog's life is lacking. Be it exercise, dicipline, rules or training. Is your dog under exercised, he is bored or is he ignored? Is your dog being allowed to repeat the bad behaviours over and over again? If so, WHY? The solution, needs to start here. How can you keep your dog from reoffending? A leash, a crate, a head halter, a fence around your yard, supervision? There are many ways to do it, you need to choose which one works for you. Interruption is the first and foremost thing that needs to be incorporated into the routine with your dog. If you cannot catch your dog in the act of the misbehavior then how will he ever learn? Ten seconds later is too late. Humans are pros when it comes to the word NO. No-no-no...which is great but it teaches absolutley nothing about what you actually would like him to do. NO, don't jump on Aunt Mabel! Train him instead to SIT in front of her and prevent him from tossing her to the ground. Instead of NO try SIT! Sit for greeting people and once she does, for pete's sake praise her and give her a food reward. Don't ignore her. Instead of looking for all the mistakes she makes, catch her doing something right. Then let her know she did it.
Redirection. Once you have caught him or her in the act of the mistake and you have successfully interrupted the behaviour, you now need to redirct them to an incompatiable behaviour. The opposite of jumping is sitting. Opposite of counter surfing is laying calmly on their dog bed chewing a bone or KONG. Barking or lunging at a passing dog? Please give me your attention. You can not bark or lunge when you are sitting and looking at the owner. The list goes on and on. Things do not need to be complicated. You also never have to resort to physically abusing your dog to fix something. If you cannot outwit, outsmart or outplay a dog, then maybe that is the problem.
The other factor to keep in mind is that training shows on TV are not realistic accounts of the amount of time it takes to solve problems. Behaviour modification with dogs as it is with children takes time, love and lots of patience. Intimidation methods only prove to ruin your bond with your dog. If your dog is afraid of you, then why on earth do you have him then.