Stopping Dog Behavior Problems Dont Reward the Problem Behavior

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Stopping Dog Behavior Problems Dont Reward the Problem Behavior

by Dennis Fetko

Since your dog doesn't know what you intend to accomplish, it will take your training message literally. You enjoy far greater success if you give some thought to exactly what it is you want the dog to learn.

Rewarding compliance maintains behavior. When you reinforce your dog for obeying your SIT command, it is likely to continue to sit when you tell it to do so. That's the definition of reinforcement; it strengthens the preceding act and makes it more likely to recur.

But your dog often gets a very different message than the one you intend to teach. If he jumps up onto you and you wish to stop that, a common approach is to punish his jump and say "Good OFF!" as you get him off you. But that method teaches many dogs that they are rewarded for getting off of you, and he can't get off of you until he's on you.

I've worked thousands of dogs that have been handled this way, and years later they still jump onto people. When you reward him for getting off you, you reward his compliance or tolerance of your force. But many dogs learn that they cannot earn the "Good OFF!" praise until they jump, so it continues. They willingly tolerate a one-second reprimand to get 5 second of praise.

Using a harsher reprimand is not the answer. A dog cannot jump on you until he's approached you. Harsh reprimands discourage his approach, not his jump.

Always first decide what you want. Do you want him to get off of you (or your visitor, sofa, bed, counter) when you tell him to, or do you want him to not jump on you or it in the first place? If you don't want him to jump on you, don't teach him that getting off after he jumps up gets him rewarded.

The author, Dennis Fetko, Ph.D., "Dr. Dog", is a world-renowned animal behaviorist whose accomplishments range from appearing on the 20/20 television show and managing the reintroduction of captive-bred Arabian Oryx into the Saudi Arabian National Wildlife Research Center to making a presentation at the South American Veterinary Congress. Dr. Fetko's audios and ebooks detail his fast, easy--and even fun--methods to eliminate your dog's behavior problems. Learn more at

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