I see many dogs with many different symptoms of behavioral issues and anxieties, but most of these varying symptoms are stemming from the same basic problem: the dog never gets told “no”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these owners are catching their dog in the act and not doing anything about it, it means that what they are doing (or saying) doesn't mean anything to the dog. When dealing with an excited silly puppy that can't think about doing anything but jumping, biting, and scratching, you might find yourself saying “no” to that dog 100 times an hour. Does the dog stop? No! Because he has no idea what you are talking about, just that you got loud and gave him some attention, which is fun!
The truth is, if you aren't telling your dog “no” in a language that he understands, you are telling him “yes”. There are many situations where our dogs do things we don't like, but by not correcting it, we are allowing it to continue and become a patterned behavior. Without getting too sciencey on you, positive reinforcement is the act of adding something (such as a treat, attention, or physical affection) to help increase the likelihood that a behavior will occur again or continue. This is how we teach puppies tricks and basic commands. We ask them to do something, and when they do it, we give them a cookie! Sounds fun, right? Well, what happens when your dog is nervous about the delivery man entering your house and you decide to soothe him with lots of soft and sweet “it’s okay, you’re a good boy” as he's growling, or in an attempt to correct him, offer him a treat. What does the dog learn in this situation? When I growl at strangers, Mom or Dad gives me affection and cookies, I MUST be doing the right thing, I AM a good boy!
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Tips, tricks, and lessons learned from Everywhere Dog and their journey!
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