How long does it take to teach a bad behavior?
OK, this is one I love to teach in class! It really only takes one time rewarding the wrong behavior with your attention to create a bad habit for a lifetime. I know you are all thinking to yourself that there is no way only one screw up can change my dogs behavior for ever, but hopefully after reading this you just might have a different view… It goes something like this: your dog barks or whines every time you get on the computer or talk on the phone and you respond by giving the dog a dirty look or telling him to shut up! Well in your dogs mind he just got your attention and now realizes that all he has to do now to get your attention is whine or bark and bingo he has your full and total attention…
Still don’t believe me? Let me put it in human terms for you… Think back to payphones (yeah I am really that old) If you ever checked the change slot and found a quarter what did you do every time you walked by another payphone? Yep that is right you checked to see if you were gonna find another payout! It only took one rewarding event and it changed your outlook on payphone for ever.
Now as cell phones came about our behavior changed (extinguished) because there were fewer and fewer payphone to check, right? Or put another way we had fewer chances to be rewarded so your behavior changed. The same could be said of your dogs unwanted behaviors if you are smart enough to change your rules and routines to fit the idea of only rewarding behaviors you like! Take for example that dog we were talking about, whining and barking when you are on the phone… If you were to quit reacting (this wont be a quick fix but it will work) the dog would get nothing out of this behavior and eventually try something else to get your attention. If you are smart you will begin rewarding calm behavior in a sitting position and before you know it you will have a new and wanted behavior…
Trust me this process is tougher that I am describing it here and you might even need the help of a professional dog trainer to guide you through the process but the overall idea is really just that simple and all I want out of the article is to get you to think about behavior a little differently. As I have always said the #1 rule of dog training is Ignore the Bad and Reward the Good! Just think about it a little and go give your dog a hug (but only if he is doing something you want to reward)!!!
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