When you desire to change a behaviour in your dog that you don’t like, there are really only two ways to go about it. Well, three if you want to get technical about it.
You can train you dog by force or with corrections. You can train your dog without force or corrections. Or, you can train your dog with a combination of both.
Training your dog is a relationship building activity, whether people want to believe it or not. There is still prevalent thinking that an animal is to be subordinate to a human and therefore should “listen” to and do what we say.
Of course, this thinking is how humans have related to dogs and other animals for all of history, so it is no wonder that it still exists. All things take time to change, especially if it is to be a permanent change. And when talking about relationships, having another being involved makes changes all the more difficult to make.
Your attitude towards things in life is determined by your psychology. Your psychology is a product of your genetics and your environment and to some extent your own choice. This includes your relationships with people, and those with pets, including dogs.
A dog’s behaviour is also a result of genetics and environment. But unfortunately, dog are not able to change their behaviour by choice as humans are. A dog’s environment consists of the living situation a dog has right from before even being born through puppyhood when he is with his mother, to when he leaves the mother to live with a new family, or any other thing that happens to the dog from then on.
When discussing what a dogs learns, it is mostly a result of the human(s) that a dog lives with. His ability to learn is innate, but WHAT he learns is determined by who he lives with. Here, we are not just talking about how well a dog learns to stay in one spot when asked, or how soon he stops barking after being told, although this can be part of it.
The result that you get is mostly dependant on a what a human does. If a person doesn’t care about a particular behaviour, the dog won’t learn it, but it doesn’t mean the dog can’t learn it.
Often, a dog will start doing a behaviour that is unacceptable. An unacceptable behaviour is annoying for the most part, but can also be dangerous depending on what it is. When a dog’s behaviour gets to this point, humans often finally object to it and want to do something to stop it.
The professing of a desire to stop a behaviour is not the same as actually doing something about it. Attempting to stop a negative behaviour in a dog is very often extremely difficult and sometimes impossible, depending on the human.
This is why changing an unacceptable behaviour in a dog is so difficult. It was likely put there in the first place at least partly by the habitual actions of a human. Dogs respond to humans based on what will get them what they desire the fastest. Humans often act towards dogs based on what will make them feel the least guilty.
So, what I am getting at is:
The best way to change your dog’s behaviour is to change yourself.
Two Things Your Can Do To Change Your Dog’s Behaviour
1. Make a decision and a committment.
You will need to decide what is important to you in your life. This may be difficult to hear. Many people have not really done this and fill up their lives with unimportant activities that take time away from what they really want to be doing. This wastes time and is not productive.
Once you state what it is that you want, it makes it a whole lot easier to do that thing.
Do you want the dog to stop the behaviour completely? Or are you willing to simply manage the annoying behaviour? (we are not talking about aggression here by the way. That is a whole different ballgame. If your dog is frightening you, please seek help from a qualified instructor). How attached are you to your dog? How much do you value your dog? And finally how much do you value yourself?
2. Do it.
Make the necessary changes in yourself to accomplish the things you want to accomplish. If you want a trained dog, or want to change an unacceptable behaviour, you will need to change something about yourself to get this done, especially if the behaviour is a result of lack of training. (Don’t forget, FEAR is not a behaviour. Fear can also lead to aggression.
We are not talking about these things here. If your dog is fearful of something or aggressive towards something you will need to seek professional help from a qualified instructor.)
That leads us to what I consider the most important thing you can do to help our dog.
Rodney Habib, pet nutrition blogger, did an interview with the man who had the world’s oldest dog. One of the things that he found out about that dog was that she was what her owner called “mellow”. She wasn’t overly stressed out.
Reducing stress is a major part of everyone’s health, including dogs.
Paul Owens, who by the way is actually the original The Dog Whisperer, and was the one who wrote the first book with that title, uses non-violence to train dogs and teach people.
In Chapter Six of his book “The Puppy Whisperer” he talks about your breath being the most important training tool. To put in simply, if you are not calm when interacting with and training a puppy, you will be promoting stress and fear in that puppy.
Dogs can see, hear and smell stress from us. If you cannot get your stress under control (which is always internal because it is your perceptions of things that stress you out not the actual thing that seems stressful), then you will be giving a dog the idea that there is something to be alarmed about.
Unfortunately, the way we breathe is under our control.
I say unfortunately because that means there is some “effort” involved in doing that. Often, taking time out to meditate or relax is seen as a chore.
Sure, it is easy to do 10 deep breaths before a training session, and that goes a long way to help. But us humans are often sucked right back into not taking the time because we are rushed, busy, tired etc.
However, if we were to just think for a minute, it is easy to see, and backed up by science and thousands of years of people doing it, meditation and deep breathing will actually SAVE you time because you’ll likely live longer if you reduce your stress.
Not only that you’ll reduce your dog’s stress level and make it easier to train him.
In future posts I will be continuing to discuss ways that we can help ourselves to modify unwanted behaviours in our dogs.
If you wanted, you could also sign up for my weekly newsletter to get more dog training info and to be notified of my blog posts. You will also get my FREE E-BOOK Eight Tips For Training The Purpose Bred Dog. Get this free e-book at this link now.
If you found this article to be of use to you, please feel free to let others know about it by sharing it on social media.
If you like the sport of Canine Disc check out my E-BOOK on how to train your dog to do canine disc from scratch on my website.
I also have a YouTube Channel full of free dog training videos for your use and enjoy