Good dog behavior and bad dog behavior are learned traits puppies use very early to get what they want. Young puppies quickly learn that misbehaving is the very best way to get your attention.
Puppies are smarter than we ever give them credit for at such an early age. They start ‘training’ us as soon as they’re out of the basket or crate and hungry.
Indeed, many dogs will bark, steal, chew and run away with inappropriate articles simply to get you to respond or at least acknowledge their existence.
Dogs thrive on plenty of attention (and affection), so let’s give it to them when they are good. And, ignore them coldly when they’re misbehaving.
Good Dog Behavior Reinforced
One of the most magically powerful training techniques is to ignore all unwanted and inappropriate behavior and instead, to pay attention to and reinforce his good dog behavior.
Observe your dog and whenever he does something you like, simply say, “Good dog” and give him a piece of his favourite treat. For example, reward your dog whenever he sits or lies down. And again when he stops whining/barking or howling/growling. Reward him when he stops jumping-up, looks at you, or simply looks adorably cute.
Reward Him When He Stops
The preferred training technique which demonstrates the quickest way to retrain a learned bad behavior is when your dog is displaying an unwanted behavior, simply reward him when he stops the undesirable behavior.
Good dog behavior is likely the sooner he learns doing nothing earns him his favorite treat or pleasant verbal praise.
Waiting for him to stop and reinforcing the cessation of the misbehavior is the training technique of choice. Use it when trying to eliminate whining, growling and running away.
Punishment is proven to only exacerbate the problem. Evidence-based research shows the dog is more likely to whine, growl and run away.
Similarly, rewarding your dog for the absence of misbehavior is an extremely effective training technique. Sometimes the dog may look like he isn’t doing much. But that’s precisely the point!
Good dog behavior should be rewarded as often as possible; if only verbally.
Good Dog! Good Dog!
The dog may just stand there wagging his tail, but just think of all the annoying and frustrating things he could have been doing. He could have been barking, snarling, snapping, or biting! So, go ahead reward him for not acting fearfully or antisocially.
Or, you could get ahead of the game by deciding to actively reward your dog for any sociable, friendly or appeasing behavior.
When he approaches, wags his tail, wags his butt, sticks out his tongue, raises a paw, bows down in front of you, or rhythmically shifts his weight back and forth from front paw to front paw. Reward him!
Obviously, simply ignoring unwanted behavior will not eliminate it entirely. However, you will see a fast and dramatic reduction in the frequency of undesirable behavior. This is because the dog now allocates most of his time to good behaviors.
Why wouldn’t he? He is smart! He knows these good behaviors bring rewards and that is what drives him. Anytime his actions solicit your attention and affection, and he is rewarded, the less time there is for bad behavior.
After a couple of dozen rewards, you will find that your dog is sitting and looking up at you. A perfect sit-stay in perfect unwavering attention. You won’t even need ask for a thing. He has learned the behavior to gain what he wants – his favourite treat! All you need say is “Good boy!”
Does He Know He’s Being Bad? Good?
When using the words “good” and “bad” to describe dog behavior it is highly unlikely that dogs have any solid cognitive grasp on ethics and morality, or even about the concepts of good and bad.
Dogs behave (chew, bark, growl, pull on leash, run away etc.) the way they do simply because that’s the way dogs behave and they do this because that’s the way owners have trained or allowed them to behave.
The meaning of “good” behavior, is behavior that owners consider to be desirable, appropriate or acceptable and by “bad” behavior, is what owners consider to be undesirable, inappropriate or unacceptable.
However, it is universally accepted that good dog behavior brings rewards for both dog and owner.