When addressing a problem behavior, it is important to treat the cause of the behavior as well as the symptom. A proper treatment plan for unwanted behaviors will have four components.
1. Positive Reinforcement of Alternate Behaviors
2. Managing and setting the dog up to succeed
3. Consequences for the problem behaviors
4. Consistency in Dealing with Problem Behaviors
With these four components you have a treatment plan. In order to eliminate unwanted behaviors, all four components needs to be addressed.
Positive Reinforcement of Alternate Behaviors
Most unwanted behaviors are typically normal dog behaviors that are not appropriate when mixed in our human environment. Digging, jumping, and chewing are normal dog behaviors. Dogs normally enjoy engaging in these behaviors, which is why we call them self-rewarding behaviors. When addressing a self-rewarding behavior, you need to teach the dog an alternate behavior that is more rewarding then the unwanted behavior. It is also important to find the trigger to the unwanted behavior and desensitize the dog to the object or situation while teaching an acceptable behavior.
Managing and setting the dog up to succeed
The idea to manage the the problem and setting the dog up to succeed means to provide the dog with every opportunity to learn that the alternate behavior is more rewarding than the unwanted behavior. This means the dog needs to be supervised so the dog does not perform the unwanted behavior. Every time the dog has the opportunity to perform unwanted behaviors the dog is being positively reinforced, and it will make reaching that goal much more difficult. Until the owner is consistent in managing the dog and the dog's environment, the dog will not learn the alternate behaviors.
Consequences for the problem behaviors
A proper consequence should impact the dog so that he decreases his desire to repeat the behavior, and compels him to give the wanted behavior. A consequence is designed to tell the dog that the behavior he just gave moves him farther from his reward.
Consistency in Dealing with Problem Behaviors
Dogs are happy, confident, and secure in their environment when the rules and expectations are consistent. When rules are changing and expectations of compliance are sometimes and not others, dogs become suspicious and untrusting of the owner. Allowing the dog on the couch when the owner is home alone, but not allowing the dog on the couch when company is visiting will confused the dog and make it very difficult to teach the dog he is not allowed on the couch. Consistency plays a crucial role when treating unwanted behaviors.
I am an ABC Certified Dog Trainer and owner of Furry Tail Dog Training.
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