The key is to be conscious of and reinforce your dog's behavior in the course of your daily routine!
Your dog is paying close attention and learning from every cause and effect in his world. He will learn to do what works to get him what he wants, and it might not always be the behavior you had in mind! Be careful to prevent, ignore or give him a time him out for behavior you don't like and reward behavior you do like. It is essential that all family members practice his lessons with him and respond to his behavior the same way each time in order for him to learn quickly. It is also important to remember to practice the lessons that he has learned occasionally to keep them fresh in his mind. I will explain below some ways to reward and discourage your dog's behavior.
Your dog is always learning. Each time you interact with him, he is perceiving your actions as reward or punishment for what he did a moment ago. Teaching good manners consists of "catching your dog doing something right" and rewarding him, as well as making sure you don't accidentally reward what you don't like. It does not really take a lot of work or time to train your dog to have good manners, but it takes concentration and an awareness that you are essentially always training. You will likely find plenty of opportunities to reward him in your daily routine once you start looking.
Examples of behaviors to "catch and reward":
Use activities / privileges your dog likes to reward good behavior:
You can use many types of rewards to reward behaviors you like, and some which you might already be giving away for free! Examples of things that dogs often find rewarding are:
Avoid accidentally discouraging your dog's good behavior:
Sometimes we accidentally punish the things that we like our dogs to do. For example, if you call your dog to come to you and then trim his nails or clean his ears, he may think twice about coming to you the next time. To avoid punishing your dog for behaviors that you like, simply try not to do unpleasant things to him after he does something good!
Some examples of activities that your dog may find unpleasant and "punishing" which should be avoided after good behavior are:
Most people know that it is important to reward your dog for doing something right, but it as important to make sure to not reward him when he does something wrong. When you get your dog's leash out, does he jump all over while you wrestle his leash on? Taking your dog outside for a walk after he behaves like that would be rewarding him for his unruly behavior. Instead, try putting the leash away for a moment when he starts to jump and then try again when he has settled down. Repeating this until he is able to stay off of you will help teach him to be calm for the things he wants.
Here are a few examples of behaviors to ignore that commonly get rewarded with attention:
Ignoring your dog sounds simple, but it is often difficult for us to do properly. Ignoring is best used for attention getting misbehavior. Examples of this are jumping up, begging, nudging, excessive licking, and barking for attention. You can most effectively ignore your dog by:
Tip on ignoring: Some dogs attempt to "work the system" by doing something naughty like jumping up to get your attention and then sitting to get a reward. You can prevent this by making sure to reward good behavior before your dog feels the need to be naughty in order to get your attention.
A time out (TO) is a brief and boring time away from his family and fun activities used to discourage "rude" behaviors like playing too rough, and some types of barking. The most important thing to remember about the TO is that it should be used sparingly. Removing your dog from his social circle is a punishment to him and punishments can have side-effects. One possible side-effect with the TO is that he decides that your walking towards him is a "bad thing", because it sometimes leads to him being put in time out. This is why it is best to use the TO in moderation and to put more effort into prevention and using rewards to teach him manners. For more on how to use a Time Out to discourage your dog's misbehavior, click here.
A note on using physical punishment or "corrections" to discourage misbehavior
What I am calling a physical punishment refers to something a person would do to the dog after he misbehaves that is unpleasant or scary. It could include a loud noise, a shock or tightening a choke collar. Physical punishments are risky and almost never necessary. One of the main reasons that punishments are risky is because they can cause fear, and fear is a major contributor to aggression and shyness. If you choose to use a physical punishment, you should seriously consider seeking the help of an experienced professional trainer who can coach you on your timing and application. However, I predict that the more you concentrate on preventing misbehavior and rewarding good behavior, the less you will be tempted to use physical punishments since you will no longer need them!
Using punishment correctly is not simple and mistakes can have serious consequences. I have outlined the some of the requirments for effective use of punishment:
Some examples of poorly applied physical punishments and possible consequences:
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