What does “Be a good dog” mean, really?
During my first contact with a client, either on the phone, or in class, I always ask “What are your goals?” I usually receive one of two answers. Either they reply “I just want the dog to be good”, which I will follow with “define good”. Or they say “I want him to stop _____ (barking, digging, jumping up on people, running away, fill in the blank).” My next question would then be “What do you want him to do instead?”
It is almost impossible to just make a behavior go away. It is much more affective to replace the unwanted behavior with one that is more appropriate or acceptable. Any of you who have tried to change a bad habit, have experienced this first hand. To stop smoking or biting your fingernails, you chew gum instead. If you are trying to lose weight, rather than snacking in front of the TV, you can go for a walk, call a friend, or find something else to do with your hands while you watch TV. To change a bad habit, substitute a good one instead.
The same theory applies to changing your dog’s bad habits. If your dog is jumping on visitors, have her sit to say “Hi”. We can teach that. If your dog is bolting out the front door, have him sit and wait for permission before crossing the threshold. We can teach that. If your dog is digging holes all over the yard, provide a specific place where it’s OK to dig. We can teach that. If you want your dog to “be good”, first your must define “good”. We can teach that!
So I challenge all of you to define a training or behavior goal you have for your dog. Then call me so I can help you teach that!