Correcting undesirable behaviors with dogs
Updated: Feb 14
Let's speak about why your dog practices undesired behaviors.
Like us dogs are motivated to practice behaviors in order to cope with and control their environment for their instinctual or learned wants/needs.
All behavior is connected to the environment and the genetics of that dog.
What is environment? Environment to be simply put is “your surroundings”. You, me, a location, objects, surfaces, or anything that externally affects a your dog.
With every action there is a consequence.
For me, the biggest question to ask myself when dealing with behavior is: “What makes this consequence effective for my dog?”
Understanding this can take us to new levels of communication with not only our dogs but with our environment and others around us.
This can be explained more simply by using our ABCs.
Antecedent- Event or internal/external factors that trigger a behavior
Consequence-Whatever follows the behavior. The end goal or the result of the behavior.
Lets give an example:
My dog escapes from the house when it's time to go out.
Antecedent: Notifies dog that it's time to go out, thus motivating it to practice the behavior:
Putting on my shoes
Grabbing the leash
Saying “let's go!”
Dog needs to eliminate
Behavior: Barks, jumps, pushes and runs out of the door.
The practice and completion of these behaviors makes the dog predict what is the consequence.
Consequence: Dog gets outside.
So what has my dog learned?
In order for me to get the desired consequences of going out. I bark, I jump, I push and I run out the door.
It worked this time so now I will probably try it like this the next time I think it’s time to go out.
With practice the outcome is perfection. The dog is now a master of escape.Training us, but don’t be upset. This is normal behavior. To make a desired outcome for yourself, you do what you know works easiest and most efficiently.
Here is where we can step in with behavior change. How can I give the dog another way to attain what it wants in a way that is beneficial for both of us.
I need arrange the my antecedents/environment (that thing that motivates the behavior) in an order to gain success for everyone.
*This may take several different approaches/trials with different changes like any experiment.
So first I will set a realistic goal that my dog can achieve.
Example: Dog wants out. I want it to wait calmly before going out.
Environmental change: Remove access to the ability of repeating the undesired behaviors.
Adding factors to keep them occupied or not practicing the undesired behaviors.
-This could look like:
Giving your dog a kong full of goodies while you get ready.
Placing your dog in a "stay" to wait for you while you get ready.
Having a leash on your dog before opening the door.
Creating a spacial boundary between you and the door.
Behavior change: What I want my dog to do instead.
Anything that you see as desirable and is easily attainable instead of those undesired behaviors.
-This could look like:
Training a calm "stay" by the door.
Requesting eye contact in order to go out.
Having the dog sit by the door in order to go out.
New consequence: After much practice, repetition and success(for both parties) of one of these options:
Dog now automatically waits calmly to go out because it is in its favor to do so. The outcome it desires is awarded.
Moral: Not asking how I can correct a behavior but what is it that my dog is trying to achieve? And how can I make it accessible in a way that works for both of us? “Effective Consequence”.