Column: Train, don’t blame, the dogs

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It is often suggested when the dog is doing something we don’t want or not doing something we do want then it’s all down to the dog making that decision.

I hear cries of “He should know better” or “He knows he should be doing X, Y or Z”. I agree the dog has made a choice. But to blame them for getting it wrong from your perspective is not wholly correct or fair. The dog is simply making choices based on experience, on the outcome of a behavioUr. Everything they do has a purpose for them. From fulfilling basic biological needs like eating, or peeing to behaviours such as jumping up to get our attention, or pulling on lead to get to a smell, each action has a consequence. If the consequence is good or positive to the dog (from the dog’s perspective) they are more likely to do that behaviour again. If the consequence is not so good or negative they are less likely to do it again. For example pulling forward on a lead and reaching a good smell could be more favourable to the dog than you yanking them back and throttling them. Telling them they should know better and yanking harder or putting a choke collar on is not the solution. All that will do is damage the dog’s neck and they may just pull harder to get to the good stuff. And please don’t believe anyone who tells you the dog is trying to assert his dominance over you, to get in front and be “Pack Leader. This myth went out with the ark. They are simply trying to achieve a positive outcome to their action. Pulling gets them to the smell. If we really want our dog to do what we want then it is down to us to teach them. We can train them to choose behaviours we want by providing them with a more positive outcome, a reward of tasty sausage when they walk near our side, rather than pulling or by sitting for our attention rather than jumping up. Try to understand why the dog made the choice it did and don’t blame them, train them!