Typically, the behaviors we see our dog use most frequently are the ones that we have TAUGHT our dog, whether we did so consciously or unconsciously.  Once you realize what purpose the behavior serves in the dogs eyes, it  will become easier to make them stronger or make them go away.

Consider these two scenarios:  Your young son wants $5.00 to go out with friends and get pizza at the corner.  If you were an 11 year old, which response (consequence/result) would you prefer…

  1. “Mom, can I have $5.00?”  For what Bobbie?  “I want to go get pizza with my friends.”  What happened to your allowance I gave you two days ago?   “I spent it already.” Well you have to learn to budget your money better.  I will give you five dollars but only after you do two loads of laundry, that is how life works Bobbie.  But Mom…. Etc. etc.. Bobbie does laundry, and then is able to go out with friends
  2. “Dad, can I have $5.00?”  Sure kiddo, here you go, have fun with your friends.

The preferred result getting $5.00 right away, makes the behavior more likely to reoccur.  Next time Bobbie will most likely just ask Dad.

Now consider this scenario from a dogs point of view:

Assume that the “Dad” figure is the main person to take dog for walks.  This usually happens after work and changing clothes.  Dad set the original rules/habit of life for this after work time.  Dog is bonded to the habit of walking with dad after he arrives home.  Dog analysis – Dad and I, we check stuff out together.  When he comes home he pets me, goes into that other room, then he comes out picks up leash and baggies and we go outside for “use your nose time”  I get to wander about, smell awesome stuff and tell the other local guys I am still here, healthy and all is well.

Now let’s change the scenario slightly:

Dad is working later than usual, and is extremely tired when he gets home from work. He thinks,  I will walk the dog in a little bit.  Instead of going right out, dad has a beer, then sits on the chair and puts his feet up.  Dog follows dad, Dog begins to bark at dad when the behavior pattern is disrupted. He barks at him and walks to the door.  No response, He then returns and repeats this “reminder” of what we SHOULD be doing.  Dads’ response can be one of a few things.

Dad gets up and takes dog for walk.  Dog’s Analysis is: “Dad forgot the rules of life, barking let him know it was time for walk.

  • Dogs Take away is BARKING WORKS.

Gives dog a cookie/treat instead – Dog Analysis is:  “Dad seems to have forgotten the rules of life but barking made him give me food.  not the reward I was looking for but hey I like treats, pretty cool, barking gets me treats.

  • Dogs Take away is BARKING WORKS.

Dad ignores barking – Dog eventually gives us (depending on breed and personality, “eventually” can be 5 minutes or an hour or longer.)  Dog Analysis is: – HMMM… Dad seems to have changed the rules, Dad isn’t responding, I am SO frustrated, why isn’t he getting ready to go walking?

  • Dog’s Take away is BARKING DOESN’T WORK.

  • Owner Take away – My dog is so stubborn.

Dad realizes his dog is expecting the normal walk time.  Dad asks dog to Sit, Shake Paw and Lay down.  He then gets up, gets leash and takes the dog for a walk OR when dog goes to lay down on sofa Dad gets up and takes dog for a walk.

  • Dog’s take away is BARKING DOESN’T WORK.

  • Owner take away:  Dog has given me great information about his dependence on structure in daily patterns. Training can help make this more manageable for me.

For some dogs the level of frustration when dad simply ignores it can be VERY aversive and some dogs will simply just not stop, especially if barking has been reinforced previously.  Sometimes, just once is enough for a dog to understand the new reward that barking gets them, for other dogs the pattern needs to be repeated a few times before they key in to the new rule that has been established. (barking=walk, barking=petting, barking=tug etc.)

If instead we redirect and give dog an alternative job, we have shown the dog that there are several ways to get what you need/desire met but barking is not one of them.  We also have a new training to work on based on what our dog has shown us.  Now we can practice breaking the daily pattern with the intention of training with our dog prior to going for a walk and hopefully right before the barking begins.  This will then give your dog other ways to ask for what they need to replace barking.

Dogs will repeat behaviors that provide them with the consequences (results) that they want.  Be sure you are communicating clearly to your dog all the polite ways to ask for what they need and your dog will use these behaviors first and foremost.