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By Koru K9 Dog Training and Rehabilitation

Ray and I were at breakfast at the Seal Rock Inn this weekend. There was a family sitting next to us having breakfast. The dad was sandwiched in between his two young sons who were coloring. One would scream to get the father’s attention, begging the father to look at his artwork. The dad would stop, tell the boy not to scream, yet would still pay attention to him. Then the other would scream even louder, which caused the father to pay attention to him. In between each scream sequence the Dad would say, “SHH! Don’t be so loud.” This cycle continued literally the entire time we were at breakfast.

All rules about kids in restaurants aside, watching the behavior of this family got me to thinking about behavior modification. Talk about textbook case. Child screams to get attention, Dad rewards the scream with attention. Kid learns that screaming = attention! In addition, the father kept telling the child what NOT to do. Dad never once said, “Hey, Johnny…color in that sun and when you are done, tell me quietly then I will look at it.”

I know, I know…you’re thinking in your head, “Bridget, how the heck does this relate to dogs?!” Training and learned behavior/behavior modification are the same, no matter what the species.

If this were a dog client of ours, here are just a few tips we would have given them:

  • You need to provide direction for you dog and tell them what you want vs. what you don’t want. Teach them what the proper behavior should be.
  • When your dog does what you want…REWARD THAT BEHAVIOR…don’t ignore it. All too often people complain about what their dog does rather than focus on the positive of what their dog does well. Does Fido sit when he greets you? GREAT! Reward that behavior.
  • Always, always, always be aware of your surrounding and environment.
  • Set you and your dog up for success. Teach them what to do, how to do it and in small steps.

Most importantly…practice, patience and a positive attitude go a long way in training dogs…and people!