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Freedom and Choices

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Dogs and humans love freedom.  It’s a powerful reward for dogs and people.  But what happens when dogs are given too much freedom before they are ready?  With freedom comes many options and choices.  Sometimes too much freedom means access to an abundance of choices that are “wrong” and only a few choices that are “correct”.  Making your environment easy for your dog’s success may mean limiting his freedom so it’s easy to make the right choice.
Housebreaking: Limiting freedom is crucial for successful housebreaking.  Nobody can supervise their dog 24/7.  Using a properly sized crate when nobody is supervising, keeps your dog from making the wrong choice – eliminating in the house.  Taking your dog outside on leash to the designated potty area keeps him from using potty time as play time.  Limiting his freedom by keeping him on leash, encourages him to focus on the task at hand.  Once the dog has eliminated, freedom in a fenced yard can be a powerful reward for eliminating in the right place.
Greetings:  Using a leash during greetings is a great way to keep your dog from jumping on people.  Jumping is very self-reinforcing for the dog.  The key to managing greetings is to prevent jumping by limiting freedom, and rewarding the sit stay by approaching.   One of my favorite exercises is to tether a dog to something that won’t budge, like an established oak tree.  I allow greeters to approach the dog only if he is holding a sit stay.  If he breaks it, the greeter backs up.  It becomes very clear to the dog that he only gets to be near the greeter if he is holding a sit stay.
Limiting freedom is only half of the solution.  Rewarding desirable behavior is equally important.  When dogs are rewarded for making the right choice, they are more likely to repeat it.  The beauty of this balanced approach is that as your dog learns that the right choice is in his best interest, he can gradually be allowed more freedom.


Written by dawnhanna

August 1, 2011 at 8:32 am

Posted in Dog Training

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