This is what I hear from most people who call me for help with their dog’s behavior problem. They have a dog like Marley, you know, the yellow lab in the movie.
I saw this movie before but it was on television again the other night and it got me to thinking about my formula for fixing most dog behavior problems like the ones Marley exhibited: jumping, chewing, stealing things from his owners and digging.
My formula consists of four steps over four weeks. Here are my steps to your success:
- Control your dog
- Determine the cause
- Train the behavior you prefer your dog to do
- Be consistent over time—this is the 4 week part
To give you a better understanding, here is a simple example on how to work with a jumpy young dog, like Marley.
Control your dog.
For the next four weeks, your dog is either on a leash in the house (while you are there), or in his crate. I’ve found over the years that dogs are much, much more
compliant and responsible on leash than they are disconnected from you.
If you are sitting on the couch watching TV, simply put your dog on a leash and put your foot on the leash. You might want to give him a chewy or stuffed Kong toy.
If you can’t supervise your dog, crate your dog. This allows you to control him when you don’t have time to supervise his activities. Remember, this is not forever – just 4 weeks. We
have to break the cycle of bad dog behavior.
Another part of controlling your dog is controlling his energy. Exercise your dog two ways. Two good walks a day will help manage his physical energy and working on sits and
downs for two minutes 3 times daily in a structured exercise will help to create mental fatigue.
Determine the cause of his behavior problem.
There can be a number of reasons your dog is jumping on you and other family members. He might want your attention (love and affection), he might want you to take him for a walk ——–or it might be that he just hasn’t been taught what it is you want him to do instead of jump.
This leads us to the third step.
Train the behavior you prefer.
If he’s jumping on you while you are on the couch, teach him to settle down on the floor next to your feet. Later, after he learns to stop jumping in this scenario, you can let him
on the couch (if you prefer). But make him sit first and then pat the couch and say, “Up!”
If he is jumping at you while you are eating at the table, teach him to go to his place (dog bed) or lay down and stay.
It’s always best to do training “set ups” when it’s convenient for you (scheduled practice sessions) rather than get frustrated when you’re trying to correct him at the
“real dinner time.”
Be consistent over time.
Consistency and repetition breed habit in a dog. But more than that, it takes at least 4 weeks of daily training to create a permanent behavior in a dog. He will learn fast, no
doubt but it’s your job to continue the training for four weeks for the behavior to get in to his long term memory as a permanent behavior.
Remember, 4 steps for 4 weeks. Practice every day. You’ll be proud of the results. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”
(c) Jim Burwell