Positive reinforcement trainers focus on rewarding dogs for good behavior, knowing that these good behaviors will be repeated. But, there are times when punishment must be used.
Most of you might think that punishment means physically correcting your dog by yelling "no," throwing a can of pennies or even smacking him on the rump. But that is not punishment. Punishment is doing something that will make the dog less likely to repeat the behavior.
Ignoring a dog that is jumping on you is a good way to punish him. Turning your back every time he jumps on you and then giving him attention when he has four on the floor can work to stop a dog from jumping.
But most people get frustrated when the dog has jumped on them more than three or four times, so they stop ignoring the dog and begin yelling at or pushing the dog down. Now the dog has gotten what he wants, your attention.
What he learns is persistence. He learns that if he keeps jumping on people he will get some attention. Even if it is being pushed back or yelled at, any attention is better than none.
If you are going to ignore your dog, it has to be all the way. If you become frustrated, find the nearest door and leave the room, leaving the dog behind.
Timing of your praise or punishment is everything.
Dogs associate anything good or bad with what they are currently doing. If they pee in the house and you later drag them to the "accident," they will not make the connection that peeing in the house is bad. However, if you catch your dog peeing on your rug and interrupted him, take him outside. Reward him as soon as he goes in the proper area.
If you give him the reward after you come inside, he will associate the reward with coming inside. So the reward needs to be given outside as soon as he has finished his business.
If you come home and find that your dog has gotten into the trash, it is too late too punish him. This will only confuse him. Sometimes you come home and greet him warmly, other times you come home and begin yelling at him immediately. He does not associate his punishment with what he had done prior to your arrival.
Even if you show him the mess, he does not make the association with his behavior and yours. He does learn that your arrival home is confusing.
Punishment should mean that the dog is less likely to repeat the unwanted behavior. If you are continually punishing your dog for the same thing over and over, it is not working. Try teaching him what you would like him to do instead and reward him for that.
For example, when the doorbell rings, you could teach him to go to a mat near the door where he gets some tasty treats instead of him charging the door to greet the visitors.
Time outs can be a very effective punishment. When your dog does an unwanted behavior such as barking out the window or jumping on visitors, quickly and calmly remove him from the room and leave him alone in another area for a very short time. When he is quiet, calmly let him back into the room with you.
The time out needs to be very short, 15 to 30 seconds is usually good. That is a short enough time frame so that he will feel he is missing out on some fun, but not so long that he finds something else to do while he is alone. He will learn that his behavior makes him miss out on the fun of being with people.
Set your dog up to succeed. If you have a dog who steals food or gets into the trash, keep these things out of reach when you are not at home. Do not let a dog who is not house trained have full run of the house until he knows where he should eliminate. If you return home and find a mess, calmly clean it up and make sure the dog cannot get into the same trouble next time you are gone.
Tip of the week: If you are constantly punishing your dog for bad behavior, find a positive reinforcement trainer to learn how effectively train your dog. Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the trainers are all graduates of Purdue University's DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.