Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Let's face it: Bad behavior gets attention, even though it's not typically positive attention. But sometimes ignoring bad behavior is the best way to get it to stop. Believe it or not, giving your
dog the cold shoulder when he does something he shouldn't, can be the first step to solving a behavior problem.
Not all behaviors will diminish as a result of the cold shoulder tactic. Ignoring your dog when he
digs in the flower beds, for instance, will likely have minimal impact on his behavior, largely because the human reaction isn’t really the reward for the digging. Other factors, such as the release of excess energy, the sensation of cool dirt and the discovery of hidden scents and treasures, are more important to your dog in that moment. But for behaviors that are repeated primarily to get a rise out of you, ignoring can be a powerful tactic.
Recently I was working with a
Golden Retriever puppy who would mouth and jump on her owners during walks. Her owner's reaction was to look down at her, talk to her and tell her “no,” and then quickly move her hands away from the puppy. The puppy’s reason for jumping and mouthing at her humans was clear from her perspective: “When I walk calmly by my human’s side, I don’t get the attention I crave, but I’ve learned that when I jump up and mouth her hands, she looks at me and talks to me. Why, she's even turned it into a fun game by pulling her hands up in the air!”
The solution to this particular situation was clear: To deter the jumping and mouthing, the puppy's owner needed to take away the reward — the attention the puppy was getting for this behavior. As soon as the puppy would jump and mouth, I would have her owner stop and stand still in a statue-like fashion with as little reaction as possible and no pulling away of her hands and no speaking to or looking at the puppy. When the puppy stopped mouthing and jumping, the walk could continue. Just as important, I taught the owner to give her puppy the attention and praise she wanted during the times when she was walking calmly by her side. The puppy quickly learned that jumping and mouthing were no longer pleasurable because the reward of attention and fun was gone. More important, she learned that an alternative behavior — walking quietly — would be rewarded with attention, praise and the occasional treat. Problem solved.
An important key of ignoring bad behavior is to teach the dog an acceptable alternative behavior to perform in its place. Let's think about
dogs who jump on humans to say hello. Your dog’s main reason for jumping on you, of course, is to get your attention. While just ignoring the behavior
will decrease the jumping, it won't stop it. It's essential that your dog has a new option for greeting people that will be rewarded with attention and petting. Ignore your
dog when he jumps on you and reinforce him with petting and praise when he sits. If he jumps on you again, ignore him until he sits, and then pet and praise him. In a very short time, your dog will learn that sitting down to say hello reaps the best rewards — petting and praise — while jumping gets him nothing.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
In a massive airlift, 33 circus lions from
Peru and Colombia boarded a flight to a
sanctuary in South Africa.
Saturday is National Adopt a Shelter Pet
Day, so we’re featuring photos of shelter
pets our readers have rescued!
We looked at our database of more than
78,000 Persian cat names to come up
with the top male and female monikers.
In honor of National Hairball Awareness
Day today, Dr. Patty Khuly is sharing four
expert tips on how to prevent…
Secondhand smoke isn't just hazardous
for humans — it can cause many of the
same illnesses in pets, too.
The APBT has a formidable reputation
and appearance, but he is meant to be a
dog who loves and accepts people.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.