top of page

When to ignore vs interrupt "bad" behaviors.

It's important to understand that dogs have certain natural behaviors that are ingrained in their DNA, which can sometimes be perceived as "bad" by humans. For instance, behaviors such as digging, chewing, jumping, and barking are all natural dog behaviors that can cause frustration and annoyance to humans.

It's essential to note that these behaviors are not necessarily bad, but rather a part of a dog's natural instincts. For instance, digging is a natural behavior that dogs use to hunt prey or to create a shelter. Chewing is another natural behavior that helps dogs to keep their teeth clean and healthy. Jumping is a way for dogs to show affection and excitement. Barking is a natural way for dogs to communicate with their owners and other animals.

However, these behaviors can become problematic when they are excessive or destructive. Therefore, it's important for pet owners to provide their dogs with appropriate outlets for their natural behaviors. For example, providing a designated digging area, appropriate chew toys, and regular exercise can help reduce these behaviors. Additionally, positive reinforcement training can help redirect and reinforce desired behaviors, while discouraging unwanted behaviors.

Understanding that natural dog behaviors are not necessarily "bad," but rather a part of their inherent instincts can help pet owners develop effective strategies to manage and redirect these behaviors.

"When do I ignore vs correct "bad" behavior" is a question I hear often get. There is certainly times to ignore certain behaviors, but if ignoring does not work a redirection or interruption of the behavior is often needed. Here are some examples of when to ignore, vs when to interrupt your dog's behavior.

  • When teaching my dog something new, I always start by free-shaping. This means that I ignore all the unwanted behaviors until my dog performs the desired behavior, and then I reward. I believe it's unfair to correct my dog for not meeting my expectations quickly enough. I only add corrections once my dog fully understands the command and has the drive to perform it. However, if my dog chooses to ignore a command (not due to fear or confusion), I may reinforce the command given.

  • Puppy accidents, yelling at your puppy for having a potty accident will only encourage them to run and hide when they have to do their business, it won't stop them from going potty inside. If I see my dog potty inside, I can interrupt them and immediately take them outside. However, if you don't see it happen, you can't interrupt the behavior, and it's too late to scold them for it. I can huff and puff about it as I clean it up, and then transfer the potty waste to the yard where their business should go. Remember, if your dog is consistently going potty inside, this is a human error, not the dog's error. Be proactive by setting potty time alarms and limiting freedom until your pup is fully potty trained.

  • Counter-surfing is a huge problem in many households. If you see your dog actively jump up to grab something they shouldn't, this is the only time you can interrupt that behavior. But if you come in 20 minutes later to find that your dog ate your dinner, there isn't much you can do about it other than huff and puff. If you consistently yell at your dog for jumping onto the counters or getting into the trash, they will start only doing so when you are not around. For this, utilizing cameras to aid you in your training process can be extremely helpful.

  • Whining is common in dogs, especially when they are in the crate, on the place, or struggling with impulse control around other humans or dogs. Since whining is a way of venting for dogs, I usually ignore it unless it becomes an obsessive wail. If my dog is whining, I wait for it to stop, and then I give them a high-value reward, such as my presence, if that's what they want. However, if my dog is obsessively wailing, this will only increase their anxiety in that moment, therefore, I interrupt them with a verbal "quiet." I then always make sure to reward my dog when they settled quietly.

  • Most of the time it's better to redirect a dog's barking behavior rather than correct it. Correcting a dog that barks due to nervousness or uncertainty may stop the behavior out of fear of punishment, but it won't change the dog's mindset behind the trigger. If your dog barks and runs to the door, and redirecting them doesn't work, you may want to try throwing some kibble on the floor away from the trigger to redirect their energy with a "find it" cue. This lets them know that their job of guarding the house is done, and you reward them for it. If barking increases anxiety or sensitivity in some of your clients, tossing kibble may be the best option for stopping the behavior quickly and redirecting their focus to something else.

  • Jumping is something I will almost always correct for if redirection fails. This is because it's a basic safety measure. Many of my clients are older or disabled and can be seriously injured, or they may have children who have become fearful of the dog's jumping behavior. Dogs that excessively jump have often never been taught the importance of respecting personal space. It's our responsibility to teach these boundaries effectively so that corrections are not relied upon.

  • Growling is something I will NEVER correct for. Dogs have limited ways to communicate, and their main means of communication is through body language which is often misunderstood by people. For instance, some people may think that a wagging tail always means a happy dog, but this is not true. A growl is one of the most potent forms of canine communication, and correcting it will only suppress it. Suppressing the growl can lead to the next forms of communication, which are snarling, snapping, or biting. Therefore, it is essential to understand that growling is a form of communication and not correct it.

  • Though I don't correct growling, I always correct dogs for lunging, and snapping. These behaviors are a matter of safety, and dogs should know that lunging is not acceptable, whether it's friendly or aggressive. Snarling usually follows a growl, so it is crucial to recognize the growl as a form of communication and redirect the dog before it escalates.

Though corrections are sometimes necessary for safety reasons, please remember:

1 view0 comments


bottom of page