Do you Shout at your Dog?
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? They’re doing that annoying thing they do, and it’s driving us mad! Maybe they are barking for absolutely no reason that we can figure out, or they just chewed the mail – again. Or perhaps they’re jumping all over us and just won’t get down! Do you shout at your dog to stop? Don’t do that.
These days, with more and more studies debunking the ‘dominance theory’ way of training dogs, there is a significant move towards using positive teaching methods to help our dogs.
But how do we do that? Do we go on a behavior training course, which would take weeks or months, or even years? Do we watch YouTube videos like the ones by Kikopup? Or do we look at how we can change the way we think about our dogs and their behavior?
In reality, whatever way we decide to try, we WILL be changing the way we think about our dogs and their behavior.
With our most recent dog, who is a rescue and came with some challenging behaviors, I decided that I wouldn’t make him do anything, or use ‘commands’ like NO! I decided that I would work with him to build up a partnership based on trust and understanding.
This wasn’t easy!! And of course it’s still a work in progress as all relationships are.
So, how did I start? As I said, we need to change the way we look at our dog. Instead of seeing him as a dog who needs to do as he’s told, I needed to think of Teddy as a thinking, feeling, being just like me. I
had to see me as someone who would guide Teddy to new ways of thinking about what he was doing; to let go of old ideas and try out new ones.
I did go to YouTube and watch videos, and I joined groups on social media about positive dog training to ask for tips and advice. But although these were a HUGE help, they weren’t the key to me being able to build a trusting partnership with my dog.
The key was in my change of approach. Our dogs communicate with us all the time, and when they are doing something we see as a problem, they are telling us something. When we take the time to figure out what it is, we can find solutions.
Let’s take, for example, a dog who goes counter surfing every chance she gets. Now, clearly, the motivation for this is food, and she is telling us she knows it’s there and she can’t resist it! We’ve tried shouting at her, we may even have resorted to hitting her, yet nothing we do stops her. Why is that?
It’s because we can’t watch her every second of the day, and dogs are opportunist feeders. They have it in their genes to grab food when it’s available, and we are trying to fight their nature. Me? I try to find the easiest solution. In this case, just don’t leave food on the counter. Thank her for motivating you to keep your kitchen clean and tidy LOL! If you really can’t be bothered to put the cake you plan on eating later in the fridge or a cupboard, don’t leave it within reach. Problem solved.
A friend of mine was being driven crazy by her dog stealing her cat’s food. We had a chat, and it turned out that the cat bowls go under a table, so the simple solution was to set something up so her dog couldn’t reach the bowls. Again, problem solved.
Our Teddy was an absolute nuisance whenever we had visitors. He adores people and wouldn’t leave them alone. To add to this, he liked to hump them! We could have done the thing that so many people do (and that I used to do) and grabbed him, dragged him off them, shouted at him.
But as is always the case it, that method doesn’t work. The only thing that would do is terrify him, and poor Teddy had enough fears due to his time before he came to us that there was no way I wanted him to be scared of me. That is not a partnership.
So what I did was teach him, when there were no visitors, to go and lay on a blanket when I asked him to. To motivate him, I used treats. He quickly learned that if I said “mat” and he went and lay on his blanket, I would give him one of his favorite treats. And that if he stayed there, he would get a treat about every minute.
I started by leading him to his blanket and getting him to lie down for a treat. I made sure I took the time to slowly build him up to spending 10 minutes at a time happily on his blanket before I tried it with a visitor in the house. Next time a visitor came, he did as I asked, and instead of being a nuisance to them, he went to his blanket.
Of course, I had to let him go and see them now and again. I couldn’t expect him to lay there for hours after all. While he behaved, he could get cuddles from the visitors. When he got silly, I got the treats out and asked him to go back to his mat. It took a few months to get there fully, but now he is rarely a nuisance with visitors and, I rarely need to put his blanket down to get him to leave them alone.
If whatever you are doing now isn’t working, continuing with it will only lead you to become more frustrated. I know that from my own experience! So maybe it would be a good idea to take a step back and try to see things from your dog’s point of view:
- What benefit are they getting from doing what they do?
- What could you change to encourage them not to do it?
- What could you teach them to do instead?
If they are demonstrating behavior that you really can’t understand you can still be sure that what they are doing is trying to communicate the reason they do what they do. It’s a question of watching them very closely. What happened just before they did it?
Often things are triggering behavior and we just haven’t noticed. Maybe when your dog appears to be barking at nothing, they’ve been triggered by a neighbor opening a gate. Or perhaps they hear a car. There is always something, and it is up to us to find out what it is and then work out how to handle it.
- Does this situation require us to remove the motivation, as in the counter surfing dog?
- Would it help if we changed something in the environment like with the dog eating cat food under the table?
- Or could we teach them to do something different, like Teddy learning to go to his mat?
We all want to have a great, loving relationship with our beautiful dogs. It’s up to us to make it happen.
“Do you Shout at your Dog? Try Doing This Instead.”
Guest Writer BIO: Kathy Zablotzky is a professional Animal Communicator. By using a photo she can communicate with a pet anywhere in the world and a lot of her work involves helping families with challenging behaviors by finding out the motivation or cause and helping to find solutions.
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Do you shout at your dog? If not, what do you do?
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