Get to the root of the problem – guest blog by Tony Cruse

About Tony

Tony Cruse is a dog trainer and the owner of Tc Dog Training based in Essex. He is a member of The Association of Pet Dog Trainers and The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, and the author of ‘101 Doggy Dilemmas’. Tony works on training and behaviour on a full-time basis. 

Get to the root cause 

“How do I stop my dog jumping up?”  It is difficult to rectify an issue without first identifying the cause. Dogs do things for a reason. For example, a dog who is jumping up at people has incorporated it as part of his greeting. Why? Because he is saying hello, just as dogs do…face to face. Jumping may have also become rewarding if it has been previously acknowledged. Fussing and even shouting ‘no’ or ‘off’ can be seen as attention!

 

Once the cause has been established, we can train a simple, do-able solution. The jumping dog can be taught to sit first. When sitting he gets his desired reward, which is to say hello! Simple solutions work.

 

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Consequences are vital. Work towards what you want your dog to do and reward that behaviour. You can use treats such as sliced hotdogs, low-fat cheese or even your dog’s daily meal quota as a reward.

Try and arrange each training situation so your dog can’t fail and doesn’t practice mistakes. For example, don’t allow access to the sofa if you are teaching him not to jump on it.  Instead make his bed or a mat, super-rewarding for him to lie on.

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Rule out the Reprimands!

Never scold, reprimand or physically punish your dog for what you may consider ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’ behaviour. More problems usually develop as a result. It is likely your dog doesn’t understand what is required because he has never been shown, he doesn’t understand, isn’t motivated or he’s anxious. Instead, look to work on an alternative behaviour. Is he jumping up?

Be smart…teach a ‘sit’.

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12 thoughts on “Get to the root of the problem – guest blog by Tony Cruse

  1. The definition of “Scold” includes being angry…. “Reprimand” includes an admission of guild. Physical punishment can shut a dog down and is often counterproductive. I agree, none of those are useful when working with a dog that doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong…

    BUT… teaching your dog the word “NO” and using it appropriately is VERY important. “NO” is a simple word that can communicate clearly to your dog that you want him to stop what he’s doing Right Now.

    THEN you can move on to teaching what you DO want him to do… which gives you the opportunity to provide praise and love, which is what the dog was probably after in the first place.

    1. The problem with No is that it very often becomes a crutch and is used for everything. It can then develop in advertantly into a reinforcer. I don’t teach no to any of the dogs I work with, as it becomes too easy for clients to rely on.

    2. I agree with Tina. I do think every dog needs to know ONE word (it may be `no’, or `stop’ or `leave’, it may even just be `oi’) which stops them INSTANTLY if they are about to get themselves into some sort of danger. (or you, or your other dogs if you are out with several).
      A trainer I am currently working with said to me it doesn’t matter what word you use to get a dog to do the desired behaviour since they don’t understand the meaning in English, they just need to know what behaviour is paired with what they hear (which isn’t even a `word’ to them). It seems to me that what Tina is saying is that the dog needs a `stop’ command and I would agree with that. Immediately followed by what to do instead. I don’t see that `no’ in a dog’s mind is negative, I think we are making that association with it because we do know its linguistic meaning.
      I’m also training my collie to recognise whistle commands, not in as sophisticated a way as a working sheepdog but teaching him to associate behaviours with different whistle blasts . That way there is no `contamination’ from the human `meaning’ of words.

      1. ….”which stops them INSTANTLY”.
        Fair point but that one word is stopping behaviour which is where we have to tread carefully or it goes into punishment territory. And is doing nothing a substantial behaviour to reinforce or is it a lack of behaviour?
        But I guess in an emergency, use any word as a distraction but it’s not training.

  2. This is a great blog post. Teach what you want the dog to do instead, reinforce the desired behaviour and set the dog up for success. What I don’t like about ‘No’ is that it is a reprimand however which way you look at it. If you have to tell your dog ‘No’, you have allowed a behaviour to occur that you think is unacceptable and set your dog up to fail. It’s about training smarter. Dogs don’t understand what ‘no’ actually means because they don’t understand English. It’s only effective if it is a cue to predict ‘don’t do that, do this instead’. ‘No’ is mostly used ineffectively by most people to scold dogs without following through with what they want them to do instead. I don’t like it and it doesn’t work for me or my dogs.

  3. If you are going to teach a ‘no’ (and how is it taught without any fallout?), I would suggest teaching the dog what you want first. There is a real danger of suppressing healthy behaviour even before you have even taught the dog properly.
    Similar to a talented teenager who arrives at a football club but they stop him expressing himself on the field and he fades out and becomes half the player her was. I believe in redirecting enthusiasm before trying to shut it down. Most enthusiasm is a person (or dog) wanting to learn something. Crying out for some concrete behaviour.

  4. Interesting thoughts on the word “no”….

    “no” is not a reprimand. If it is, you’re using it wrong (look up the definition). I agreed with the article; reprimands are not helpful.

    I can see now how easy it is to misconstrue the use of a simple word, though…

    My dog understands “no” and she also understands “yes”… pretty easy to teach, actually… no adverse mechanisms required.

    1. So how did you teach no? And what does your dog understand it to mean? And how do you know she understand what you perceive no to mean? I use ‘yes’ as a marker word to capture ‘what you just did will give you a reward’. Do you perhaps use no as a ‘no reward marker’?

  5. This is such a hard topic to teach to people who are used to using negative forms of reinforcement they don’t think its cruel because everyone does it and it can get them the result they want why think about it too much? Its taken me nearly 5 years to teach my mother to stay off punishment as its whats setting back our dogs from progressing in their training. I actually praise my dog for jumping up because I know she is saying hello but I am working on an efficient sit because its a great emergency command for interrupting behaviour problems. 6 out of ten times now my mini Schnauzer will sit when asked I also slow the time she gets a reward so she keeps her bum on the ground for longer. For no to work you would have to reward the dog every time and before you know it your dog might think no is his new name! No becomes a positive interupter or just another word that predicts food,

  6. Oh dear. Countryfile broadcast on BBC1 28th Feb had a ‘dog trainer’ training a dog to stay off sheep. By using the word ‘no’ only.

    no training, just punishment.

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