Are You Inadvertently Rewarding Your Dog’s Bad Behavior?

Your dog gets super excited around people and other dogs when you’re out on a walk. You pull back on his leash, you talk to him, you even raise your voice a bit trying to get his attention, but he just ignores you and gets even more wound up. Sometimes, he’ll even round on you all of a sudden and give you a hard nip that makes you lose your grip on his leash. Then, he takes off, and you chase him while calling his name, hoping you’ll be able to catch him before he gets to those people and their dogs. Or, if he’s big and heavy, he just yanks you off your feet and drags you behind him like you’re an errant stick tangled in his leash.

Your dog jumps on people coming in the door. You repeatedly tell her “off” or “down” – you even try to physically pull her away – but she’s so happy to see or meet whoever is coming in that she gets more excited and jumpy. You feel embarrassed about it, but it’s just so cute to see her so happy that you can’t help but laugh at her while you’re trying to take hold of her so the person or people can get in the door.

You’re trying to train your dog, but he doesn’t listen to you. He just walks away and does his own thing. You get his favorite treat or toy and call him to you, but he doesn’t care. After a few unsuccessful tries, you sigh and toss him the toy. Maybe he’ll take it, maybe he won’t.

Your dog gets nervous and growly around strangers. You chuckle nervously and then you try to reassure her by petting her and telling her everything is okay, but she doesn’t settle. Instead, she just growls and bares her teeth even more. She might even try to bite. And, if she succeeds in biting, you gasp in shock and tell her she’s a bad girl while petting her and telling her to calm down.

These are just a few very common scenarios I deal with quite regularly. Dogs not listening to or even giving the briefest attention to their owners, owners feeling frustrated and unable to cope anymore – they’re at the end of their rope with their dog… It’s a vicious and very unpleasant cycle to get trapped in.

When I meet a client for the first time, the first thing I tell the owner is, Don’t talk to the dog, and don’t touch him or her. You see, talking and gentle touch are forms of attention the dog perceives as rewards; the more you give, the more often the dog will practice the behaviour – good or bad – that gets them those rewards. But, when you deny the dog those rewards for their bad behavior, you put your dog into a position where he or she has to think about what they have to do to get them. This causes the dog to start paying attention to you so they can start learning what you do want from them.

Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on. And if you’re feeling stuck and at the end of your rope with your dog, don’t give up. Go to the Contact page and reach out to me. I’m here for you.


%d bloggers like this: