You shape your dogs behavior with every interaction

Bastian Communication, Relationship

You shape your dogs behavior with every interaction

There are two principles at work: one is your interaction with your dog and the other is how your dog perceives you.

The first is one of the most basic principles there is. What this means is that whenever you interact or engage with your dog, you shape his response and behavior.

A dog’s behavior is the act of jumping up for example, but there’s also the state of mind which the dog has when he’s doing that behavior. So when he is jumping up, it could mean that he is excited, happy or displaying dominance. The dog experience various other states as well while jumping. But the point is that if the behavior (jumping) gets encouraged, the state of mind the dog is in while displaying the particular behavior gets encouraged as well.

This is really an important aspect to understand because dogs often develop similar behaviors / similar states of mind. Usually, when a dog is excited, he tends to lets say chase stuff and will not settle down easily. He also might want to play games all the time. All of these behaviors are related to an excitable state of mind which is cute at times, but when such behaviors go overboard like in hyperactivity or similar, it not fun anymore and quite stressful for the dog as well.

Whenever you encourage such excitable behavior-which is easily done just by acknowledging it, or saying hello, or talking to the dog, petting it-you effectively create more of the same. If you don’t want that, then it’s a good idea to not engage with such behaviors, particularly not when your dogs demands attention.

The second principle relates to your dog’s perception of you. Let’s stick with the “jumping up” example. If your dog jumps up at you and you encourage him or if you react in any way, your dog learns that it can make things happen, that you are easily influenced and that your dog can do what it pleases (with you) in this context.

This shapes the dog’s perception of you and this is how a perception is formed of each person or dog, your dog meets. The more interaction, the more I know where I stand with you. These interactions are the basis of how the relationship is formed. It’s all about figuring out what works and what does not work. What response do I get? Do I get attention or not? Does it work each time? What is happening when I do this? Hence with each interaction there is either encouragement or discouragement of the behavior / state of mind and the shaping of the dogs perception of its counterpart. This fundamental principle applies whether you train your dog, teach him tricks, or when working with problem behaviors, playing or whatever.

It’s important that you encourage the right behavior and the right perception.
That is unfortunately where most people fail. Let’s say you call your dog and he doesn’t come, so you call him again and again and again. What happens here is that you’re basically encouraging your dog not to come because you keep on engaging it and you keep on feeding the very behavior you don’t want which is in this case, not coming.

It’s difficult for people to stop and disengage or alternatively to create facts-maybe by going over and getting the dog without making a fuss and without creating any drama.

But the basic thing to understand here really is that if you engage, one way or the other, you encourage what’s going on, even if it’s negative attention you are giving.

If you don’t want to encourage behaviors it’s important that you are not given any attention and you ignore it. At times, it’s important to create a boundaries and interrupt certain behaviors, but it’s key to not create a drama when doing so. It’s more about taking clear action. You engage, you reward. You disengage (and perhaps give a boudary), you discourage. These are all part of shaping the behavior, state of mind, and the dogs perception of you.

With this it’s all in your hands to create an attentive, and respectful dog. A dog that looks to you to check and figure out what’s okay and what’s not okay, and whether he can do stuff or not at that moment in time. Over to you to apply these principles. Good luck & have fun! Any questions or comments, please leave them below!

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