Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"So how do I properly discipline my dog? . . . " (Version II)

I had written a blog post about this subject back in January of 2010. I have noticed that this specific blog post has received over 1300 views.   I hadn't read the post in years and so I went back and re-read it.   Oddly enough I was a little bothered by some of what I wrote!  I have grown as a trainer and behavior therapist due to continued education in the field, and I'm glad I have!  So, with that said I feel that I need to  update this post due to it's popularity and  let dog owners know how I feel about this subject in regards to my current training philosophies and methods.

I'll start by saying that the most important thing about discipline is that it should be a learning moment for both you and your dog.   However,  as a professional dog trainer I have discovered that most dog owners asking "how do I discipline my dog" are actually asking "how do I get him to stop _____?"  or "how do I get him to understand what 'No!' means?" If these are one of the reasons you have Googled how to discipline your dog then you should take some things into consideration first.

There are several reasons a dog would do something you would disapprove of:
1) He's a dog.  He's doing something dogs do.
2) He doesn't know anything else.
3) Lack of training. He hasn't been taught what you prefer he do instead of XYZ behavior.
4) He's missing something in his life. He is bored, over/under-stimulated and/or over/under-exercised.
5) He's gotta pee. He may need to relieve himself (for puppies, especially).
6) Medical reasons. He may have anxiety for one reason or another.

I prefer to teach a dog what I want him to do as opposed to what I do not want him to do.  It's really so much easier to do this, not to mention your dog expands his vocabulary and knowledge base to a degree that "misbehavior" is normally a thing of the past or at least something that rarely occurs.

So instead of me telling you what to do to correct a misbehavior or a way to teach your dog "No!" I will tell you this -- train your dog to  understand what you want from him.  Here are some examples of common complaints on things dogs do and what to do when these things  happen.

Complaint: Dog jumps on guests.
What dog owner says: How do I teach him to stop jumping on guests?
What you should do:  First, what do you want your dog to do? Sit? Lie down? Go lie on a mat?
Teach your dog to do something when guests come in your home or greet your dog.  Then your dog will do that and they won't find a need to jump.

Complaint: Dog chews socks.
What dog owner says: How do I get him to stop chewing my socks (and other things)?
What you should do: First, don't allow objects your puppy chews to be accessible.  Now teach your puppy what he should chew on.  Let puppy know that chewing on his bone is rewarding and acceptable behavior.

You get the idea.  Most dogs do things we dislike due to lack of training, not because they are obstinate or mad or whatever you would like to believe.  Plain and simple, the dog has most likely not been taught something better!

Once you have trained your dog many appropriate behaviors and your dog is also well exercised and stimulated, you shouldn't have a problem.  However, a dog is a dog. Every now and again something will happen that you'll disapprove of.  It is at this time if you need to say, "Hey! Fido, don't do that!" that your dog will most likely listen and stop.  You've trained him well and you have a very good understanding of one another, therefore, punishment and yelling is really just not necessary at all.

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