12 Step Guide to the perfect dog

cover for the 12 steps

Oakwood Blog

Practice Makes Perfect or Permanent!

Posted on


Have you ever heard the expression Practice makes perfect? Well with dogs this isn't entirely true, in actual fact practice makes permanent!

The more your dog practices a certain behaviour the better they will get at doing it and the more ingrained the behaviour will become.

Lets look at some examples:

Every day when I walk my dogs I go past a house where their collie races to the front window and throws himself at the window barking at my dogs walking past. It's quite a popular dog walking route so how many times a day is this dog practicing this barking and lunging at other dogs? The owner might be suprised when his dog starts barking and lunging at other dogs out on walks too. But I won't be, I would be more suprised if the dog doesn't develop this behaviour further.

How about the dog that runs off with shoes, tea towels or other household objects?

How about the dog that jumps up at visitors when they arrive?

With problem behaviours, the more they get the oportunity to practice them the better they will get at them and the harder it will be to stop them.

So what should we do I hear you ask?

The first step in changing a dogs behaviour is the prevent them from practicing the behaviour we don't want them to do.

So for the dog that barks when dogs/people walk past the house, block off access to the front window so they can't see the dogs walking past, for the dog that greets people by jumping up put them on the lead when visitors come round so they can't jump up. For the dog that runs off with household objects, tidy the house and put things out of your dogs reach.

Now bear in mind this is not changing the dogs behaviour for the long term, this is a mangement tool. We are simply preventing the dog from practicing the behaviour we want to stop and as a result we prevent them getting better at the behaviour we don't like.

If you stop at this step then they next time a visitor arrives and the dog is running free they will jump up, as we haven't trained them not to, we have simply stopped them practicing it for a time.

Step 2 Settle on Bed Animation

The next step is to teach the dog not to do the behaviour we don't like, the easiest way is to teach an incompatible behaviour to our dogs, which we will then ask them to do instead of the inappropriate behaviour.

So for the dog that runs off with household objects, teach them to fetch at toy instead, if they are busy fetching a toy they can't be running off with the tea towel.

For the dog that barks at dogs walking past the house, teach them to hold a toy whilst looking out of the window, with a toy in their mouth they can't bark.

For a dog that jumps up at guests when they arrive, teach them to sit on their bed, if they are sitting on a bed they cant jump up.

So we choose a behaviour that if they perform this instead they simply cannot engage in the problem behaviour. As a result we retrain a good behaviour in place of the once we don't want.

Its not that easy......

So some of you might now try to get your dog to go to his bed when visitors come round, he won't do it so we say the training doesnt work and stop. But what is happening is the situation of visitors coming round is far to exciting for your dog to concentrate.

When teaching a new behaviour we never start training in the situation we want the dog to perform in, this is far too hard.

Start easy, train your dog when no visitors are around, teach them to go to their bed when its quiet and all is calm. As your dog gets good at the new task, gradually build up the level of difficulty over time. Once your dog can handle lots of distractions then attempt the exercise when visitors come round, but only srat with one visitor and build up, again slowly over time.

Author: Gill Williams, Senior Behaviour Counsellor


Add a comment:

Leave a comment:


  1. Christ Fellowes

    Please can you tell me where you are. Thank you.

    Posted on

Add a comment