We all love our dogs- that is a given. We can love our dogs, enjoy our dogs and have a lot of fun with our dogs, but... that doesn't mean we have to allow them to do whatever they want whenever they want.. Boundaries are important. Without boundaries, dogs can easily become "pushy" and bratty. No one likes a bratty child and no one likes a bratty dog :) Not only is pushy and bratty behavior annoying but it is unhealthy. Dogs do best when they have clear boundaries and they fully understand the reward and punishment system that goes along with those boundaries. One of the most basic, simplistic and IMPORTANT ways we can set boundaries for our dog is to teach them, and have them respect, "YES" and "NO."
YES = we like that behavior. Here is a reward (treat, praise, touch, toy, affection, etc)
NO = we do not like that behavior. Here is a consequence (explained below).
The vast majority of dog owners out there do a phenomenal job with the "YES" part of the equation above; however, in my experience, very few owners (pre-training that is) are truly establishing a clear and meaningful "NO" for their dog. Many owners say "NO" when their dog does something they do not like or want, but then it stops there. Nothing ever comes after the "NO" for most owners. So the verbal "NO" doesn't mean a whole lot to the dog. The equivalent would be a police offer pulling the same person over multiple times for driving 100mph through a school zone and never doing more than giving a "warning." Anyone can see the very obvious problem with this.
So... does your dog truly value and respect "No?" Jumping. Digging. Barking at the mailman, other dogs or people. Mouthing behavior. Counter-surfing. Fence-running. Pawing for attention. Crate tantrums. Chewing. Begging at the table. Getting on furniture. Pestering the young kids or other pet dog. The list goes on and on. When you tell your dog "No" in these situations, does it stop doing the unwanted behavior immediately? And then...How quickly will your dog start doing the unwanted behavior again after you tell it "No"?
If your dog does truly value and respect your "NO" then awesome! You are doing a great job setting clear boundaries for your dog. If your dog just kind of blows off your "NO" then you haven't truly established a meaningful "NO" for your dog.
So, how do we do that? What does it look like... establishing a meaningful "NO" for a dog?
It is very simple: in various situations (in the home, in the backyard, on the walk, in public, etc), when we see a behavior we don't like in our dog, we do two things:
First: We "mark" the unwanted behavior with a firm (not loud) verbal, "NO."
Next: We give a punisher about one second AFTER our verbal "No." The pause between verbal "no" and punisher is important. If you give the verbal "no" and a physical punisher simultaneously then your dog may only value the physical punisher and never respect your verbal "no" ( known as "overshadowing"). By pausing for about 1 second between saying "NO" and then giving a physical punisher, the verbal "no" becomes two things: 1. A command: stop doing what you are doing and 2. A Warning: if you don't, there is a consequence that follows. IT IS THAT SIMPLE!
The punisher is different for every dog (depending on age, situation, history, behavior, how sensitive or how stoic the dog is, etc); however, the punisher must be MEANINGFUL to YOUR dog. We don't want to "put the Fear of God" into the dog... absolutely NOT. However, we also don't want them completely blowing off our physical punisher. We want it to be in the middle: something they take seriously. A few examples of punishers:
* E Collar correction (my preferred method in most cases- see below on reasons why)
* Shake can
* Squirt bottle
* Pet Convincer (burst of loud air)
* "Bonker" (rolled up soft towel used to throw towards the dog)- we personally do not use
* Leash correction
You are simply interrupting unwanted behavior with something YOUR dog takes seriously.
Why does it have to be a physical punisher? Because dogs are obviously a different species than us humans and we can only communicate with them in so many ways. We obviously cannot have a "sit down chat" with them about their inappropriate behavior. They would not understand, "If you continue to bark at every single person and dog that walks by the fence then you will not get your walk today."
Why can't we just ignore the bad behavior and then reward the dog for the good behavior? Beacuse that does NOT work with 99% of dogs.
There MUST be a punisher/consequence to stop unwanted behavior. Simply rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior will NOT work with 99% of dogs out there (see my blog on that specific topic).
For most dogs, it is important to follow up with a punisher after a verbal "No" every time for unwanted behavior for about 2-3 weeks so your dog has an opportunity to truly learn what is not allowed and takes you seriously. After being VERY CONSISTENT with this for about 2-3 weeks, THEN you move to the next stage: you will be able to only use a verbal "no" in most situations and give your dog the chance to change its behavior with the verbal "no" before any punisher is used. If the verbal "NO" works and your dog stops the behavior. Perfect. If you give a verbal "NO" and your dog doesn't stop, THEN you follow through with the punisher/consequence.
The vast majority of my Board and Train dogs respond to a verbal "no" the vast majority of time by the end of their 2nd week in training by following the simple method explained above: First: mark unwanted behavior with a verbal "NO" and THEN 1 second later... give an appropriate and meaningful punisher/consequence to the dog.
While every dog is different and every situation is unique, my tool of choice for teaching a dog to value and respect "no" is an E Collar. The reasons are simple:
1.) We can do so from a distance (up to 1/2 a mile with the collars I use although our dogs are never that far from us) & even when barriers (like walls, fences, crates) etc are in between the human and dog. Things like: a dog pawing/barking/ pouncing on an owner's back to door to be let in the home (unhealthy demanding behavior), crate tantrums (unhealthy demanding behavior), digging in the yard, fence running & fence barking/etc)... can all very easily be corrected from a distance and even when the owner is not in the same exact room as the dog.
2.) It is calm, non-abrasive punishment. We are not going to injure the dog. I would MUCH rather have clients correct their dog with surface level stimulation then yelling or screaming, kicking, hitting, etc. (all things we do NOT do here at Allegiant K9s).
3.) The ease of getting proper, appropriate levels of consequence/punishment for an individual dog. We can fine-tune the level of punishment for each individual dog very easily with an E Collar. The E Collars we use have stimulation levels that go from 1 -100 and this is a GOOD thing. That means each level of stim (up or down) is a VERY, VERY small increase or decrease of stimulation. Again, that gives us (the handler) the ability to adjust the level of consequence a dog may receive to make sure we are using an appropriate level. Other tools like a Pet Convincer, shake can, squirt bottle, etc are hard (or impossible) to modify: it is either all or nothing.
4.) E collar communication works through walls (ie: a dog pawing, barking and pouncing on an owner's back to door to be let in the home (unhealthy demanding behavior), crate tantrums (unhealthy demanding behavior), digging in the yard, fence running & fence barking/etc)... can all very easily be corrected from a distance... even when a wall or fence or something is in between us and the dog.
5.) It is extremely effective, reliable and produces results with longevity. Easily put... it is very effective in stopping unwanted and unhealthy behaviors in dogs.
Dave... I have tried teaching my dog the value of "no" but it isn't working! Why?
Most likely because...
1. You are not using a punisher that your dog values, respects and takes seriously
2. Lack of consistency between house members or day to day situations
3. You moved to a verbal "no" (without a punisher/consequence) too soon. MANY dogs will listen to a verbal "no" without a punisher quite well and sometimes dogs will "look very sorry" after the owner gives them a verbal "NO," but then.. the dog will quickly go right back to the same unwanted behavior. The owner tells them "NO" again and the dog "looks very sorry" and the behavior stops for a brief moment or so and then a bit later... the dog is doing the bad behavior again. In a way... the dog is "playing" the owner. The dog has learned if it just "looks sorry".... then no real consequence is coming. So an owner just ends up telling their dog "NO" over and over and over with no real long lasting results.
Teach your dog to value and respect "no"... for you.... for your dog... for the relationship you share.