Don’t Correct Your Dog: Correct Their Behaviors

Correcting your dog is not about education, but rather about personal revenge. This pushes many dogs to defend themselves and does not help to create a fulfilling living environment conducive to learning. A lot of people do it, once in a while, because they don’t know what else to do and not with the intention of martyring. In this article, we will see the main ways to correct the behavior of your dog, instead of attacking him personally.

1- When you can’t educate

Your very first reaction, when your dog misbehaves, should not be to express how you feel. If you really want to educate your dog, to be effective in the long term, this reaction should even have nothing to do with how you feel!

When this is the case, you are correcting your dog and therefore you are not educating him. I remind you that a dog cannot understand what is right or wrong. Remember that your dog needs to understand what behavior is worth gratification. 

And there are situations in which this is just impossible. All you can and should do is managing the emergency.

If I see my dog ​​destroying his cushion, I have to stop the behavior. It’s urgent! But let’s say there is no security emergency. Stopping the behavior doesn’t mean showing my anger, teaching a lesson, putting it in its place… All of this, with any animal, only brings you trouble. With a dog, a rough move puts you at risk of being bitten (now, later when it starts again, or at a time when you least expect it).

With the cushion example, you can remove the cushion to save it from destruction. Another example: put your foot on the spoiled food that your dog is devouring on the ground. Sometimes, with your dog on a leash, you can only walk away from whatever triggered his “bad” behavior.

When you can’t educate, manage the emergency and don’t make it a state affair. It is a dog that expresses a need. If he could talk, he would tell you what you need to know. He cannot speak. So he uses his mouth, his fangs, his voice, his paws… He does annoying things, but only because he can’t tell you what he needs.

2- When you can interrupt bad behavior

With a little practice, you can call out your dog’s name by mastering your voice and/or mastering the following. You give yourself a second to put yourself in your role of educator and not that of vigilante who repairs a personal affront. Yes, shout in an emergency, but to get your dog’s attention by increasing the volume.

This is an entirely different intention from the cry of anger.

Ideally, use your dog’s name only when necessary (= to get his attention) and as an introduction to a request (command). For this to work, for your dog to actually pay attention to you when you say or call out its name, it must be reserved for these useful functions. Don’t use it as an all-time request.

And so, don’t just shout his name; it’s just the introduction of your request. But before talking about this demand, let’s talk about the use of the body to communicate.

Do not use your body to discharge what you feel, but to make yourself better understood. For example, to interrupt the destruction of the cushion, do not stay ten meters behind your dog. Approach right away and you will be in a very different dynamic. Already, you will have eye contact or at least the possibility of having one. If you use your index finger to pull him away, he’ll see the gesture. If you clap your hands, the noise will be more effective next to it. Check here for more details about Snuffle mats at Family Pooch.

You need a word to interrupt. Not having pushed to correct your dog! Choose your word (or group of words), the one that is most natural for you, such as stop or that’s enough. If it’s more natural for you to shout “hero” or something similar, do it, but know that the words are less conducive to losing control. Optionally, accompany the word with a sound, such as clapping.

Interrupting bad behavior doesn’t mean rushing your dog, grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and dragging him outside, for example. That’s making a personal drama out of a dog’s stupidity. It’s dangerous, it’s unnecessary and it’s also unfair, because your dog does not act against you. He expresses a need. Why would you personally take it out on your dog who is only expressing a dog need?

3- When you can educate

Let’s say you’ve successfully interrupted a bad behavior. If your dog stops, it should be rewarded. You’re not interrupting bad behavior to fix an insult, you’re educating. So what do you need? You need good behavior to reinforce. And if your dog has stopped doing his stupidity, you have this good behavior!

For example, if your dog struggles to get out of the trunk of the car when you haven’t put the leash back on and you shout “Rex!” Stopped! » and that he stops… don’t put the leash while complaining « it’s still a world, huh! » and therefore completely ignoring success!!

Count three seconds (or adjust this timing according to your dog); don’t wait too long, but wait long enough to be sure that it’s not “a break to start again” and that you have indeed succeeded in interrupting it. Then, two scenarios:

You don’t have a reward candy on you: use your success marker word. The word “yes” is a safe bet (raise the intonation!) but some prefer a more specific word that they only use in this specific case (of satisfaction with a behavior) such as “good dog” or ” great”. After your marker, it’s good, you have time to take your time to look for a treat (not always essential in this case, but it helps, especially if it were to happen again).

You have a reward treat on you: give it away after the famous three seconds (or however long it takes to be sure your dog has basically stopped.

To have the presence of mind to mark a good behavior when a bad one has just happened, you only need one thing: not to let your emotions dictate your behavior with an animal.

That’s all. If you find it difficult, practice, it’s something that can be worked on; it’s not exclusive to unusual people or whatever. Remember that one should not correct his dog but his behavior.

Well, if your dog continues… it’s not more personal than before, huh… He’s not testing you, he’s not challenging you; his need to do what he does is too strong at this time. That still doesn’t justify the dog’s correction. If you have to intervene with your hands, to force, do what you have to do without showing your anger, scaring or hurting. Do not add three layers and move on!!

When you have calmed down, then you can consider solutions. Correcting your dog is not one of the solutions.

4- When you can expect better behavior

We are no longer in emergency situations where you have to run to put your dog on a leash or save an object from destruction, etc. That said, as this technique of “correction” is one of the most effective, if you want to try, remember that you can reproduce a lot of emergency situations.

To give you an example: I can’t wait for my dog ​​to stop pulling on his leash when I stop at the pedestrian crossing, because it’s too dangerous. But I can surely go for a walk in a path without a car, stop every x meters and ask him to sit down, small reward, we continue…

In fact, all the difficulty sometimes is just to find, imagine, and develop training circumstances.

It is a question of waiting for his dog to behave appropriately on his own. When possible or when work circumstances can be found:

It takes a lot of patience not to talk, to resist the urge to ask anything, or to stop everything.

you have to wait two or three seconds (as we saw above), to be sure that it is not a “pause” but a new behavior : for example, you can feel the difference between a dog stopping to pull half a second to regain momentum and a dog that Stops Pulling  !! But we don’t wait too long, of course, at the risk of it starting again.

We must not ignore behaviors that are not “great” (let alone repress them): imagine that I want to turn around and my dog ​​stops pulling, but he is still in front of me and his body is relatively tense. It’s not great; he does not turn around! But it’s a first step. I have to mark her (success marker, see above) and reward her.

If I pull on the leash when my dog ​​pulls on the leash, I correct my dog. No interest, other than hurting him and relieving my anger. If I expect better behavior (to be reinforced), I do education.

In other circumstances (without distractions, by “removing” anything that may cause failure), you will be able to expect good behavior. You will be able to prepare everything so that this behavior actually occurs, whereas “in real life”, it never occurs. You will have prepared yourself; you will know that you will have to remain patient.

It’s so unlike those times when your dog knocks you off your feet that even someone who’s not particularly patient can wait long minutes before seeing their dog do what it hoped (stop pulling, to bark, or something else to reward).

5- When you can make decisions

Education is not your only option. With a dog, a whole part of daily life is made up of decisions to be made or actions to be taken.  To correct a behavior and not correct your dog, you sometimes have to make decisions. All silly, non-binding and do not bother anyone. Why don’t we take them? I’m not sure, but I’m thinking of two types of people.

There are people who do not realize what a dog is. It’s just that they have expectations next to reality. For example, I know someone who leaves food on the table and says to me “no, but you realize, it flies on the plates”. Is that so? But how is this possible?

Seriously, sometimes we are responsible for bad behavior, just because we don’t make the right decisions. I had to explain that dogs like to eat; many are very greedy. When there is food, it is as if there should never be any more. For this reason, you must make the decision not to leave food out in the open anymore, instead of asking me how to teach your dog not to steal from the plates you leave on the table!

There are people who want to control everything. You don’t have to control everything and when you can’t control something, surely you can control something else. I know someone who feeds the birds on his patio and (complains about) his dog going crazy outside the window. Why not put the birdseed somewhere other than in front of this window? Do you want to control the fact that your dog is reactive to birds?

It’s not possible to change that. But there are decisions to be made so that this is no longer (or less) a problem for you.

6- When you can establish rituals

You easily correct many problematic behaviors by establishing rituals.  Rituals avoid correcting your dog. They automate good behavior.

When you have a very energetic and powerful gluttonous-voracious dog, and giving him his bowl is a daily challenge (it looks like he’s going to eat you), having him sit down before putting the bowl down is useful. Instead of correcting his dog, we correct his behavior: we teach him if you sit down, you eat. PS: if you can’t do it, think about the famous training sessions outside problematic situations; for example, start with a treat on the floor or the empty bowl and when the dog is not hungry.

Rituals work with behaviors other than sitting. I have several at home. One is for my dog ​​to back up onto a rug several feet from a door when I open the door and my cat is behind it. For my bitch, it’s if you step back, you get out. And my cat comes in and she goes out – otherwise, there is a traffic jam at the door and my dog ​​can get stuck, and then my cat can sneak in very quickly, and he triggers her, anyway…🙂

Before getting something, a dog can go to its place (in its basket), wait and not move, lie down or whatever is convenient. As long as he understands that it allows him to have what he wants, it works. As it concerns everyday things, it is repeated all the time: it is learned very quickly and you no longer have to ask your dog for anything because he quickly does it on his own.

It’s better to establish rituals to prevent possible bad behavior, but you can create them at any time in life with a dog to correct behavior.

7- When you can learn new words

It is one solution among others. Maybe a new word could solve a problem. That is, your dog would need to know how to do something on command.

Teaching words (or commands) to your dog is not just learning “basic commands”, such as sitting or heeling when he arrives at your house or when he is still a baby. At any age, a new word that you learn allows you to ask your dog to behave in a way that will replace the one he has naturally and which is problematic.

If there isn’t already something he knows how to do on request and could be of service to you for this problem you are having… Yes, because we learn words for a specific purpose or we use them frequently in same conditions, and we may struggle to see their usefulness in unusual circumstances. But it happens that dogs already know how to respond to a request and it could be used for a new problem.