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Stop Bad Behavior

From sonic noise machines to citronella sprays, cans of compressed air to electronic shock collars, there is a never ending stream of products and techniques advertised to STOP problem behavior. But do they provide real solutions?

Let's say you just started a new job. The pay is good, you have a nice office and the people around you seem very friendly. But after several months, you haven't received a job description or any on-the-job training. But everyone seems to still like having you around, so you don't worry about it. One day, you are asked to give a presentation to a very important client. As you start your presentation, your supervisor begins yelling at you, telling you everything is completely wrong.

You stop the presentation. The boss turns his back on you and starts talking to the very important client.

Now, what should you do differently for the next presentation?

Don't know? Neither does your dog when aversives are used to interrupt unwanted behavior.

Here's a dog training example:

Your dog jumps on visitors. You try saying "no," you try jabbing him in the neck with your fingers, you try squirting him with water, you try spraying him with compressed air. Now, which of those approaches tells your dog what you want? None of them.

Because interrupting problem behavior with aversives is not the same as teaching good behavior.

To find a solution for this problem, answer two questions:

  1. Would it be more acceptable for your dog to A) mount the leg of your guests, B) jump on the kitchen counter and help themselves to the pot roast, or C) lie in a designated location until released?

  2. Do any of the advertised products teach the more acceptable behavior? A) Yes. B) No.

I once came across an article called something like "How To Stop Any Bad Behavior." It described using a penny can, which is a can partially filled with coins. When shaken, it makes a loud noise that many dogs find aversive...or at least startling. This certainly causes most of them to stop barking, chewing, or digging. It does not, however, teach them NOT TO bark, chew, or dig. Hence the reason the comments from one visitor was:

May 12, 2013 - Works great with my dog!

July 2, 2013 - Only worked for a few weeks.

It's the same with many of the training videos you see online. An aversive is used to interrupt unwanted behavior, which is then displayed as clear evidence that the method/product "works."

Sometimes, with some dogs, these products might have long-term effectiveness. The aversive is so strong that the dog avoids doing that behavior for the rest of its life. Sometimes.

Sometimes, the dog learns not to do the behavior when the owner is present, but still digs, chews, or barks when the owner is gone. I've certainly seen my share of dogs who become nothing more than furry rugs when a squirt bottle is set on the middle of the coffee table, but act like normal, untrained dogs otherwise.

Sometimes, aversive products increase the dog's frustration or anxiety, which makes problems worse, or generates new problems.

So, instead of wasting your money on products that sometimes work on some dogs, take the more efficient path of learning how to effectively communicate what you want with ANY dog.

Remember, don't just stop behavior. Teach GOOD behavior!


Serenity Canine Behavior Ⓒ2022 Lisa Mullinax. All rights reserved.

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