First off I’d like to say the advice I’m giving on this topic is for people who have done a good level of training with their dogs, and can safely say that they’ve put the leg work in on teaching their dog to understand what’s expected of them.
Before focusing on what you don’t like, make sure you’ve done plenty of work on focusing and rewarding what you DO like 🙂
But assuming that’s the case, it’s a good question to answer.
Traditional dog training would have us reach for some sort of punishment – a smack on the nose, use of a choke chain, perhaps use of an electric shock collar. But that’s not the sort of relationship I want with my dogs, and I know it isn’t the sort the people I teach want either.
Fortunately dog training has moved on just a bit, and we now understand far more about how dogs learn and how we can improve their behaviour using positive reinforcement – basically using things the dog likes to reward them and encourage them to behave the way we would like.
But I get asked this a LOT – what do I do when my dog does something I don’t like?
The answer is simple, but in practice can sometimes be difficult to work out:
Stop access to whatever it is that your dog is doing that it finds rewarding
What you’re looking to do is provide a consequence for the unwanted behaviour. Nothing terrible, just stopping them indulging in what it is they want if it’s inappropriate or if doing it ignores something you’ve asked them to do.
So for instance if I’ve sat down on the sofa after a long day and I’m just settling down with something to eat, I don’t want my dogs forming a ring around me starting at my food.
I’ll give them their Bed cue and expect them to go off to their places and stay there until I say otherwise. Just occasionally (and usually after a particularly busy day – such a lot like my children ) they’ll look to push their luck a bit. After all dogs are opportunists.
The consequence of one of them not remaining on their bed is that I’ll get up, take them by the collar and return them to their bed. I stop access to them being close to my dinner.
It rarely takes more than that, but should they decide that it’s worth a shot then it would escalate to being put into a crate or out of the room where we’re all sat.
The consequence in this instance is a lack of freedom as they lost the right to it when they couldn’t behave as I’d asked.
Dogs understand this brilliantly – it’s us who struggle! But adjusting your thinking to embrace rewards for good behaviour but also consequences for cheeky moments, will move your dog’s understanding of what you expect from them to a whole new level.