It’s that time of year when our behavior really begins to loom over us because it determines if we get placed on Santa’s Naughty Or Nice List. And you certainly don’t want to get caught on the Naughty list and end up with a lump of coal in your stocking…and you don’t want your pupper getting placed on the Naughty list either! So here are 5 Easy Things To Do To Take Your Dog Off The Naughty List!
1. Exercise – I’m a big advocate for walking dogs as a form of exercise for a number of reasons. My personal favorite as it’s mutually beneficial as we get some exercise too! Walking your dog, and more-so for puppies, also serves to expose them to the world which can help address minor behavior problems like fear and nervousness of certain stimuli. Dogs aren’t capable of doing two things at once so if they’re confronted by something they’re afraid of, and you’re leading them in a confident manner, then their brain will be redirected to the task of walking and following your lead.
In minor cases of reactivity, a structured walk can alleviate much, if not all, of the intensity behind the reactivity. These cases generally tend to be “frustration” based. A frustration built from an excess of energy or the lack of proper direction to slow the brain down. In both cases, the high energy or lack of focus leads the brain to be a bit erratic and “all-over-the-place” so the workout helps to address the issue by tiring the body which then can’t keep up with the brain. Regular and consistent exercise can help your pooch to become a balance citizen of society.
2. Default-Sits – A very simple yet effective way to teach your dog to default-Sit for anything they want is by utilizing any moment you’ll be feeding them their food or a treat. Implement this exercise the moment you get your puppy or dog and you’ll be well on your way to getting a patient pooch.
I like to start this exercise with their daily feeding time. The first time will take the longest, but it’s the most important because if you fail to achieve the goal and give in, it’ll take even longer the next time you try to implement the routine. In the beginning, your dog may be excited while your prepping the food, but this regimen will begin to work its magic in a backwards manner as your dog gets the hint of what they’re supposed to do.Complete silence is an absolute must for this to work. Don’t say Sit, No, Down, etc. Absolutely no words!
Prep their food and hold up the bowl by your chest. Whether they’re sitting or not doesn’t matter. Begin to bring the bowl down, if they take even one step forward, bring the bowl up to your chest again. Most dogs will step back, if not, it’s ok. They should be focused on the bowl, slowly bring it down, they take one step forward, bring it back up again. You’ll continue to repeat this and at some point your pup should start sitting. At this point, bring the bowl down, lift it up when they break the Sit position. Remember, we’re not saying anything at all. Not even praise.
Your pet should be able to hold the sit until the bowl hits the ground. It’s very common at this stage for dogs to break the sit when you remove your hand from the bowl so be quick! We want them to hold that position until you give a release word meaning you want them to hold that sit until you say “OK” or “Break.” Once you can stand up and they don’t budge, say your release word and walk away. Eventually over time your dog will default sit by the feeding area waiting to be fed as you start to prep their food because they know that’s the only way that food bowl hits the ground!
3. Eye Contact – This is essentially building off the default-sit behavior I just spoke about. What you may notice is that your dog is default-sitting no problem, but is super focused on the food. We want them to shift that focus from the food or reward, to you. All you need to do is wait for them to make eye contact during the routine. Initially you’ll immediately release them for the eye contact, but over time, you’ll gradually require them to keep eye contact for longer periods.
This is easier done with clicker training and treats as you can reward the eye contact repeatedly in a short period of time, which will allow the dog to pick up on what you want quickly. If you do this with their feeding time, it’ll just take a bit more time since you’re only reinforcing once or twice a day pending your pup’s feeding schedule. Keep at it and you’ll have a completely focused pet waiting for your cue. Once you get to this stage and have built the behavior, you can also add it in for when you give your dog treats, affection (eye-contact isn’t really feasible here), or for when playing ball to help tone the energy down.
4. Ignore Them – What?! Ignore them?! Yes, but not permanently. A lot of my simpler behavior cases tend to be over-stimulated dogs that can’t wind down. A big part of the issue is too much energy is being invested into the dog in the forms of excessive treats, high-pitched baby voices, and lots of affection. Many times the dog or puppy is excited when all this is happening so it begins to associate excitement with these actions which can keep them stuck in that state of mind. This is very unhealthy and not good for them.
I’m not against the treats, baby voices, or affection. I just want to use them to reward behaviors that I want. Teaching the aforementioned default-sit is great for treats as it acts as a reward for calmness, eye contact, and much more respectful behavior. Baby voices and affection is great when praising your pet for performing an obedience command well or for problem solving a new behavior you’re teaching. I prefer to save rewards and positive reinforcement when the dog has done something to earn it. This also helps keep the value of your affection high as they do not receive it for no reason and is limited.
5. Calmness – One thing I’ve learned through my years of dog training that has affected me on a physiological level is dogs will give you what you give them. Meaning, if you’re excited, your dog will be excited. If you’re calm, your dog will be calm. This has ingrained a natural calmness in me that immediately resonates with the dogs that I work with.
“He/She is never so calm!”
I hear this all the time. Some pooches need a little more of a connection with me so I’ll need to grab the leash to feed them my energy, but never less, with no words and just presence alone, I can have a calming effect. Dogs don’t want to be excited all the time. That energy is seen as unstable in the animal. I wish I could have a drone follow me on these consultations to show people how their energy really does affect their pets. A good example of this is Cesar Milan. You’ll see a lot of dogs flip a switch on energy level when he walks in. I used to be so amazed when I watched it happen and now, I make it happen!
Here’s a little clip I found of him working his magic through the leash.
I hope by instilling these 5 simple things you’ll take your dog off the naughty list! Might even take you off the list too!
Canine Perspective, Inc