January has been designated as National Train Your Dog Month. In honor of this month, I’d like to focus on two of the most common training issues brought to me and the other trainers at Cold Nose Lodge. Even dogs that have mastered the basic commands often have a few remaining challenges. The two that I hear about most often are jumping and pulling. These two behaviors are often unknowingly being rewarded and reinforced. They can also be self rewarding:
A dog jumps for attention. The owner looks down at the dog, reaches down a hand to gently push the dog away, and says to get down. The dog has been rewarded with attention – eye contact, touch, and verbal acknowledgement.
The best plan is to ignore the jumping and reward the dog for having feet on the ground, or even better, for sitting. Rather than acknowledge the jumping dog, just take a step back and turn. (Better yet, step back before the dog makes contact with you.) The dog will naturally slide back down, and then you can get him to sit. You can then reward with treats, praise or a favorite toy. With consistency from all humans the dog encounters, he will learn to sit for attention instead of jumping.
Now for pulling. Many people allow their dog to pull them down the street. Although I do get a little thrill when I see dogs pulling to get into the lodge, this isn’t an acceptable behavior. Someone can and will get hurt. By allowing a dog to go in the direction he is pulling, you are rewarding that dog for the very behavior that is driving you crazy. If your dog pulls, you need to stop. If your dog does not allow the leash to go slack, you should then walk in the opposite direction. Again, consistency is incredibly important. Eventually that little light bulb in your dog’s head will turn on. “When I pull, I don’t get to go in the direction I want. When I pull, I go in the opposite direction. I’ll stop pulling.” There are special front clip harnesses that can assist with this training. A harness without proper reinforcement and training will not solve the pulling problem alone. Please do not turn to harsh training devices like shock collars, choke chains or prong collars to stop your dog from pulling.
For additional assistance with these and other training issues, please contact Cold Nose Lodge. Our trainers are happy to help.