By Christy Paxton DogLife Skills Instructor, Kindness Specialist
This is a continuation of my series “The Top 10 Training Traps and How to Avoid Them.”
You believe strong corrections are necessary and more important than rewards.
Rewards are better! Think about it: Would you rather get a ticket every time you speed, or get $100 every time you don’t speed?
The research is clear: The best way to get the happiest, most responsive, and safest dog is by motivating him to do what you want and then rewarding heavily when you get it.
When you strongly correct/punish a dog to tell him he’s done something “wrong”:
– It means nothing to him because he doesn’t share our value system
– It can make him scared of you and distrustful of humans (creating the “unsafe” dog)
– It gives him no information about what to do that is “right”
– It often increases the odds that the dog will repeat the “wrong” behavior
ESCAPE THE TRAP:
Realize that corrections are not punishments, but rather interruptions of undesirable behaviors. They should never be delivered in anger, and they should never scare your dog. Whenever possible, they should be followed with lots of rewards for any alternate behavior that is considered desirable, including no longer displaying the undesirable behavior (aka “doing nothing”). Note: It is essential to deliver interruptions and rewards immediately following the behavior you want to influence!! Otherwise, you are influencing whatever he just did, which could be a totally different behavior (e.g. giving a dog a treat when he has returned to the house after pottying outside rewards the return to the house, not the potty).
Also, start thinking about how much fun your dog will have when he does X (the behavior you want him to give you instead of the problem behavior). Make it your business to show him how to do X, and reward him handsomely every time he does X. He will then make the practical decision to display the behavior that benefits him the most: X.
Finally, understand that lots of attention of any kind can reinforce behavior. So be very careful about how much attention you give your dog when trying to deal with a problem behavior. Your energy needs to go to rewarding the “right” behavior, not stopping the “wrong” one.