“How Do I Get My Dog to Stop (fill in the blank)?”
We know that all animals repeat behaviors that are reinforced. So, reinforcing only the behaviors we want our dogs to repeat, and removing any reinforcer for those we don’t want them to repeat, is the answer.
This simple answer probably makes your eyes glaze over, so let’s examine this conundrum.
You don’t want your dog to jump, playbite or eliminate on the rug (the usual culprit behaviors). Rather than expend energy running around yelling, “No!” let’s decide what you DO want your dog to do instead.
Envision your dog greeting guests by sitting, touching his nose to an outstretched palm, then returning to you. That looks really good! Let’s teach a knock at the door is followed by sit, touch, then a turn back to you for a tasty tidbit. Having the dog on a leash removes the reinforcer for jumping, by making jumping impossible. Simple, right?
Playbiting, like jumping, is a request for engagement. Let’s replace it with an alternative, such as “sit and watch me.” The dog is taught to do this before getting what he wants (your attention). Removing the reinforcer (your attention), when he bites, shows him which behavior works better. Patience-trying, but doable!
Potty is even easier! It’s not so much that you don’t want the puppy to eliminate inside the house, but rather, you DO want him to go outside on the GRASS. Getting him to the grass often and reinforcing potty on the grass, teaches the DO, and 100% supervision and/or confinement, prevents “the don’t.” Pretty soon, this pup is seeking the grassy surface he knows when he feels the urge to eliminate.
Remember, all of the above “problem behaviors” are actually normal canine behaviors that we, the humans, find unacceptable. Fair enough, but keep in mind, a dog needs a reason to do what you want and not what comes naturally to him. So teaching with kindness, patience and positive reinforcement is key.