Are You The Problem?
What’s Your Struggle and are you the problem?
As the warmer weather approaches, so do longer days and more outside activity. We see a huge increase in training inquires during these warmer months. Why? This is when we are the most active with our dog, whether they are ready or not. This also means it is when we see owners become frustrated, stressed, disappointed, or even sad by some of the behaviors their dog “just started”. In this month’s blog we breakdown just why our dogs behave in some circumstances the way they do. At this point you may have at least 5 situations going through your head, shaking yep, why does my dog do that when XYZ happens? Let’s first share our top 5 situations we are questioned and want quick fixes for:
1. Why does my dog bark when the doorbell rings or someone knocks?
2. Why does my dog have to jump on people when they greet him?
3. My dog just wanted to say hi to a “new friend”; that’s why he was barking and lunging.
4. My dog hates getting brushed, nails clipped, or even taking a pill.
5. They play keep away, it is beyond frustrating, they should just know to drop it.
Ok, so you are probably thinking, wow, my dog does almost all or most of those situations at some point. These situations are often what we hear that clients struggle with, get frustrated by, or seek help “fixing” the problems. For those that have taken lessons and classes with us, you know why many of these situations happen. In all of the above there is a common offender of the behavior and it’s not the dog! We as humans, believe in humanizing and creating events in our dogs life, which essentially causes the behavior. These situations do not just fall on your dog to “know better”, but in reality it is 75% our responsibility and 25% on our dogs. So let’s walk you through these and give you a few tips to work you and your dog through it.
Problem: My dog barks at people when the doorbell rings or someone knocks.
Training tip: Next time someone comes over observe your actions. Do you make a big deal of this visitor? Does your guest make a big deal? (example Who is here, is daddy/mommy home)
-Teaching your dog a place command can allow your dog to be in a calm state during these events. It gives them a job to do and a place to go where they know they are safe and content. Place works with patience and consistency of each occurrence reinforcing it.
- Take into consideration your guests as well, be sure they do not feed the energy and reinforce the unwanted behavior. We all have guests like that; they come through the door as if they have never seen a dog in their life! As we stand there and boil, while our dog jumps, barks, whines. It’s time to train those house guests too! It is important for those visiting your home to reinforce good behaviors with your dog such as calm greetings, asking them to sit first, and ignoring them for the first few minutes. This also applies to place and when your dog is holding place. Spend some time with creating good manners at the door with both your two and four legged companions.
Problem: My dog jumps on everyone, it wasn’t a problem when they were a puppy, but they should know better now.
Training Tip: Let’s first address, that our dogs do not “know better”, simply because they are older. Dogs do not understand their age, rather they learn by association and in the moment. Now, back to the my dog jumps on everyone issue. When we bring these sweet puppies home, we tend to allow jumping, because let’s face it, they are cute puppies! It starts on day one, jumping should never be reinforced in a greeting atmosphere. Many times, we create the greeting to be an overexcited, joyful, and high drive event. What does this mean? “Oh my GOODNESS, what an adorable puppy!” *Cue the baby talk and screaming from afar as strangers approach* As they ask if they can pet your dog, the dog is already jumping and they are already petting. You begin to say you don’t want them to jump, but the overexcited stranger goes on to say, “Oh I don’t care, he/she is just so sweet.” In the back of your head you are thinking, damn, I do care that my dog is jumping I LIVE with them you don’t. As you are probably laughing remembering these moments, you may also be realizing that this was the start of jumping. No matter the person, four on the floor is polite. It is others around us that create over-excitement to greetings with our dogs, setting our dogs up for failure. Stick up for your puppy and set up greetings with polite manners!
- When we first begin to train puppies to greetings we reinforce our dogs attention on us, rather than focusing on the excitement of the person approaching.
- We then ask our dogs to sit first, then go greet. Giving them permission to say hello to a person.
- Follow this up by a three second rule. Your puppy/dog, visits with the person for three seconds and then is recalled off the person. The entire exercise sets our dogs up for the best success and for them to keep four on the floor!
- When you do have a dog that jumps, evaluate how you handle the situation. We as humans hyperfocus on the negative. Dog jumps, we say NO OFF/Down, push them off and make eye contact. All of which may be negative to us, but let’s see it from their paws- dog jumps and gets talked to, pet, and eye contact; dog doesn’t jump and we don’t acknowledge it. I know, you are saying, well yea because the dog should just know not to jump, so why would I acknowledge it. Okay, but from your dog’s standpoint, jumping gets them SO much more than when they don’t, so why not continue to jump. Next time you want to work on greetings, stay calm, teach the people approaching to be calm and don’t be afraid to set your dog up for success. If a person is not going to respect this, move on. That one person will more likely ruin the work you just put into your dog.
Problem: My dog just wanted to say hi to a “new friend”; that’s why he was barking and lunging.
Training Tip: This one is by far the simplest to work through. Your dog DOES NOT need to make friends with every dog or person. Again, as we create an event with others that pass. You may catch yourself telling your dog “look a friend for you”, “Oh boy, isn’t that dog pretty, Fido?”, or our favorite, “Fido, just say hi, be friends.” No, no, no! Do you go to the grocery store and introduce yourself to each person there? Even more so, do you give each person your encounter a hug? Heck No! Why do you, then, expect your dog to say hello to every person and dog they meet. As we covered a few blogs back, you can oversocialize your dog, where you do not matter. What does this lead to? Leash pulling, overexcitement in public, and overall poor manners.
- We want to simply touch on the idea of going for a casual walk, your furry companion by your side. You pass by various dogs and people, on a loose leash. That is what we call a stress-free and enjoyable walk! How many of you feel that you lack this? Take a look at what events you have created when passing others.
Problem: My dog hates getting brushed, nails clipped, or even taking a pill.
Training Tip: BE PATIENT! Yep, it’s that simple. When it comes to grooming, pills, and even clipping your dogs nails, we have this need to get it all done at one time. This is where things go downhill. Nails is one of my favorite places to start. When we go to clip our dogs nails, we begin with one nail; not too hard. We move to the second paw and our dog begins to squirm or fuss, causing minor frustration. By the time we get to the last paw, we are laying on top of the dog, firmly telling the dog to sit still (there may be some other select words being said too), we are sweating at this point, but it’s done. Though, now every time you get the nail clippers out, it’s a fight to get it done. You created this negative event with your dog.
Why not simplify it, begin with one toe a night and some high reward treat. Clip the nail reward and repeat each night until you have done all the nails. Then begin again, this time with two nails a night, then three, and so on. Soon you will enjoy, and your dog will enjoy, having their nails clipped. This method can be applied to many other grooming situations. Happy grooming!
Problem: They play keep away, it is beyond frustrating, they should just know to drop it.
Training Tip: We LOVE this situation. Not only is this easy to fix, but it is FUN! Quick question, why do you feel your dog runs from you when they play keep away? The answer is within the question. Dogs love games, to engage, to play. When they get something and we chase them, we yell, we become animated, they get a sense of happy satisfaction. Not only did they take something, but now you are running after them, playing “chase”. We create this as the best event for a dog. Why wouldn’t they continue to grab things. Again, when they are behaved, what are giving them in return? Many times nothing, we go back to “the dog should just know better.” But they don’t, they associate what they are doing with what they are getting in that moment. Next time your pup grabs something try running away from them, make a fun come drop it game out of the situation, and don’t feed into the game they want you to play.
All of these situations and so many more, have multiple “solutions.” We shouldn’t, though, allow these to even become situations. Take a look at what you and the other two legged companions in your dog’s life may be doing. What events are they creating in your dogs life. These events lead to unwanted behaviors, rude quirks, and frustration on your end. Begin with one behavior and work as a team! Events in our dog’s lives many times are human created and human enforced. This is our responsibility to set our dogs up to be successful and for us to feel confident when with our pups!