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When thinking or talking about a behavior your dog does that you want to change, do you think about the dos or the don’ts? The things you do want your dog to do? Or the things you don’t want your dog to do?
Trying to plan the don’ts is a common thought process. What do I mean? Let’s recount a conversation I’ve had endless number of times over the years.
Client comes to me with a behavior they’d like to change with their dog. Let’s say how the dog greets people. The conversation goes something like this,
Me: “What would you like your dog to do when they see other people?”
Client: “I don’t want him to jump on them.”
Me: “I understand that’s what you don’t want him to do, but what do you want him to do?”
Client: Pause. “I don’t want him to jump on people…” (clearly thinking, “Katrin what are you not understanding about what I just said!”)
Me: “Ok, that’s what you don’t want. What do you want? Would you be ok if instead he barked at people? Or sat in front of them? Or looked at you? Or stood behind you? Or….”
Client: “Well I don’t want him to bark at people! [silent, ‘duh, Katrin! of course I wouldn’t want that either!’] I don’t know what I want him to do, how about sit?”
Me: “Great!” Now we are getting somewhere…we can make a training plan for a dog to practice sit when he sees people. (and depending on the dog and what I’ve seen thus far, I then likely make some recommendations on what alternative behaviors this particular dog would be more comfortable and successful with)
My point is if you focus on the don’ts, the door is open for many other dos. If you only focus on that you don’t want the dog to jump on people, is the dog barking at them ok? Is him biting them ok? How about him peeing on them? Or running around them in circles? Or digging a hole when he sees people? Or running away from them? If you focus on the don’t, how can you help prevent many other behaviors you likely wouldn’t want either?
My encouragement for the day, think about the dos when you want to change a behavior. What behavior do you want to increase in frequency? Then make a training plan around that.