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Ignoring Bad Behavior

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Ignoring barking

Last month, I wrote about some principles of positive reinforcement training. We teach, acknowledge, and reward good behavior.  But owners also need strategies to deal with bad behaviors.  I wrote last month that unwanted behavior should be prevented, ignored or redirected.  In this issue I’ll discuss ignoring bad behavior.Last month, I wrote about the laundry list of complaints my students have about their dogs’ behavior.  Some of the more popular complaints are jumping up, running away, leash pulling, stealing, trash surfing, chewing, and house soiling.  Here are some tips on ignoring bad behavior.

1. Even negative attention is attention.  To a dog that is seeking attention, eliciting yelling from his owner is an interaction he desires.   To a dog that is bored, inciting a game of chase by simply stealing a remote control can be very rewarding to the dog if you give in to the chase.  Rewarding bad behavior will increase the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated.  So obviously if you give attention to, pet or interact with a dog jumping on you, he’s going to repeat the behavior.  Never give attention to a dog barking in its crate unless you enjoy sleepless nights. 
2. Walk on by.  Everybody should ignore a dog that is jumping on them if you want to stop that behavior from being repeated.  At greetings, walk past the jumping dog.  Walking away, and walking out the door also work.  Dogs that steal items or bark for attention need to be ignored.  Better yet – lock yourself in the bathroom alone for 30 seconds.  A dog thief will be so confused by this response that it’s likely that he will drop whatever he stole to find out what’s going on in the bathroom.  A leash pulling dog can be ignored by stopping dead in your tracks and not moving forward with the walk until be allows the leash to slack. 
3. Hang in there.  It is likely that a bad behavior will become worse at first if you ignore it.  Be patient.  Behaviorists compare it to the broken elevator call button.  Chances are, an impatient elevator passenger will increase the repetitions and possibly the pressure inflicted on the button, before he realizes that the darn thing is broken and gives up.  Your dog may bark longer and louder for attention.  Don’t give in and teach the dog that only long and loud sessions of barking will elicit attention.  He will eventually learn that the behavior no longer gives him the desired consequence and the behavior will become extinct. 
Consult a dog trainer if you need help making this a part of your every day life.  Remember this is only one part of a three part strategy to deal with bad behavior.  Don’t forget to continue to teach, acknowledge, and reward good behavior too.   

Written by dawnhanna

March 9, 2011 at 9:24 am

Posted in Dog Training

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