If you notice your puppy or dog engaging in a behavior you’d rather not see repeated, make a promise right then and there to teach your dog what’s appropriate. Simply punishing the wrong behavior won’t work. Instead of punishing, teach your dog what you’d like.
Don’t live with the behavior for weeks, months, or years before you decide to change it. Dog’s habits die hard, just like people’s habits. If you’ve been hitting Starbucks every morning for two years, imagine how hard it would be to stop going. Not an easy thing! On the other hand, if you’ve only discovered Starbucks last week, it’s not very hard at all to drive right past.
Habits get stronger the longer they’re around. And it takes a lot more effort to change a habit than it does to prevent one from starting.
So: Is your dog staring to chew on things? Beginning to bark? Just now decided that the couch is his? Fast forward a few months — is this the way you want to live? With chewed up furniture (or shoes, or baseboard, or sofas?)? A chorus of woofing whenever someone walks past your yard? Sitting on the floor to watch TV?
The answers to the problems above would involve teaching your dog the right behaviors. For the chewer, you can help your dog by (1) buying dog toys that hold food (such as a Kong) and (2) keeping your stuff out of your dog’s reach.
For the barker, crate or confine your dog in a part of the house where he can’t see outside while you’re gone. When you’re home, sit with a bowl of delectable treats and every time your dog sees something he’ll bark at, give him a piece of food before he begins to bark.
For the couch hog, teach him a cue for "get on" and "get off." Hand targeting works great for this. If the dog is in your way when you want to sit on the couch, give him the "get off" cue and then reward him for complying. And invite him back up once your comfortably seated!
If you need the help of a professional, make sure your trainer is a positive reinforcement trainer (clicker training is an example of positive reinforcement training) and also make sure your trainer is certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Search for a trainer in your area here.
So, how do I teach him not to get on the couch in the first place unless and until he is invited?
Laurie Luck says
Another great question, Jeremiah. Have you seen the article and video on “Settle on your mat?” That’s a great alternate behavior for your dog to do instead of getting on the sofa with you. Hope this helps!
Because I had seen it done before I began training Copper to do this before I knew about your article. I just read it and I think the article is helpful, but my situation may have changed things.
You mention in the video not to coax her or lure her, which I have done. She seems to have done pretty well up to this point. She offers other behaviors she knows but usually eventually end up on the bed. However, her being on the bed is generally sloppy. It’s not huge, so if she were to stretch out, she would be off it in part. My ideal would be all of her parts (excepting maybe her tail) be on the bed to “count”. I have already been clicking and treating with sloppier renditions, but also perfect ones. Is it possible to start just expecting perfection before click and treat? Is any luring to get her in place ok? She is not in discovery mode, she strikes her pose, as it were and waits, knowing that a treat *should* come soon. Also, I think I may have introduced the cue too early…I don’t know how long to go between cue and starting over because she didn’t get it without repeating the cue…
I know I’ve asked a lot. I have appreciated your responses, but don’t necessarily expect them. This is the best site and information I have come across. Thanks for all you do!