Teach your dog to value & respect "No."
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. No one likes a bratty child and no one likes a bratty dog. Not only is bratty behavior annoying but it is unhealthy.
So... does your dog truly value and respect "No?" Jumping. Digging. Barking at the mailman, other dogs or people. 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. Chasing squirrels. The list goes on and on. When you tell your dog "No" in these situations, does it stop doing the unwanted behavior immediately? How quickly will your dog start doing the unwanted behavior again after you tell it "No"?
Dogs do best with clear & consistent communication and part of that clear & consistent communication is the dog knowing exactly what is allowed and what isn't. One very easy, yet important thing we can do for dogs and our relationship with them is to set boundaries and we can do that by teaching them to value and respect "No" for behaviors we do not want.
So, how do we do that? What does it look like?
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:
1. We "mark" that incorrect behavior with a firm (not loud) verbal, "No."
2. 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 physical punisher simultaneously then your dog may only value the physical punisher and never respect your verbal no. By pausing, a 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. IT IS THAT SIMPLE! Obviously, sometimes you will not have the opportunity for a verbal "no" first (ie: you see your dog fence running/fighting in the yard with the neighbor's dog next door while you are inside doing dishes)- go ahead and correct quickly even if you cannot give a verbal "no" (and the only way to do that in this situation is with an E Collar/remote collar).
The punisher is different for every dog (depending on age, situation, history, behavior, etc); however, the punisher must be MEANINGFUL to YOUR dog. It needs to be something that your dog takes 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)"
* Leash correction (which I personally stay away from in most cases).
You are simply interrupting unwanted behavior with something YOUR dog takes seriously.
There MUST be a punisher/consequence to stop unwanted behavior. Simply rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior will NOT work (see my blog on that topic immediately before this blog). 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. Very quickly you will be able to only use a verbal "no" and give your dog the chance to change its behavior with the verbal "no" before any punisher is used. And then only use a punisher if your dog doesn't respond to a verbal "no."
***Be consistent and fair to your dog! If you do not follow through with a punisher when your dog ignores a verbal "no" then your dog will be confused.... does it get 3 verbal warnings first? Does it only matter when mom or dad are upset or had a long day? Does one owner correct after one verbal "no" and the other owner correct after giving 3 verbal "no"? Be fair to your dog and you do that by being CONSISTENT.
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.
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.) I can do so from a distance (up to 1/2 a mile with the collars I use)
2.) It is calm, non-abrasive punishment. I would MUCH rather have clients correct their dog with surface level stimulation then yelling, kicking, hitting, firm leash correcting, etc.
3.) I can fine-tune the level of punishment very precisely for each individual dog as the collars' stimulation goes from 0-100 (other tools like Pet Convincer, shake can, squirt bottle, etc are hard to modify),
4.) It works through walls (ie: pawing and pouncing on a back to door to be let in, crate tantrums and barking in the other room, digging in the yard, fence running/etc),
5.) It is extremely effective, reliable and produces results with longevity.
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) too soon. MANY dogs will listen to a verbal "no" without a punisher quite well, but... they will quickly go right back to the unwanted behavior when they realize no real consequence is coming... so you end up telling your dog over and over and over the same thing. In a way, your dog is "playing" you.
4. Your dog is lacking other skill sets to be successful in certain situations. "No" with correction stops unwanted behavior but after that... then what? What do you want your dog to do? Lay down quietly at your feet while at a patio restaurant? Go to its place bed when guests come in the home? Remain in an off leash heel while squirrels and deer run by? "NO" is only part of the equation. Your dog has to have the skill sets on what TO DO so it can be successful.
5. Bigger picture issues: sometimes we need to look at the big picture: What is the energy and structure in the home look like? What do leash walks and exercise look like? Does the dog want to engage/train/play/exercise with us? Is there jealousy for attention? How does the dog view us: as a buddy or a leader...As someone that will stick to the rules or let things slide? I would read my blog, "How your dog perceives you directly impacts its behavior.... for better or worse."
Teach your dog to value and respect "no"... for you.... for your dog... for the relationship you share.