San Diego Dog Training – The Art of Redirection – an efficient cure for the most common doggie don’ts.
Written by Rob Jewell
Trainer at Lose the Leash Dog Training of San Diego, CA
Working as a dog trainer in San Diego, the most common question that I am asked is usually “How do I get my dog to stop ______?” Many of the biggest challenges owners face with their “Best Friend” revolve around annoying behaviors that their dogs develop. Jumping up, leash pulling, barking, nipping and not coming when called are the some of the most common problems owners face. Feel free to substitute your dog’s own annoying behavior in the list above…We’ll soon be on the way to solving these challenging issues.
My most frequent response to a general question regarding the aforementioned behaviors is another question: “What is it that you want your dog to do instead?” Before we try to stop a challenging behavior in a certain scenario, we must first ask ourselves what it is the ideal behavior that our dog can perform. All too often we see a person’s first reaction to an unwanted behavior is to react by attempting to curb, halt, or punish the dog for “misbehaving.” STOP RIGHT THERE! Before we start ‘whispering’ (or yelling) corrections with a “cht-cht”, “aaahhtt”, or “no”, we need to analyze what’s going on. Your dog is simply acting out a role in a well rehearsed behavioral model, and one that we can take control of without the need to punish.
An example of a common “problem” we treat starts as an owner and dog are approached by a guest (or stranger), many times accompanied by another dog. The owner typically prepares the dog for the upcoming interaction by tightening up on a leash, signaling to the dog that it is now time to begin the typical drill. (Feel free to insert “halter”, “harness”, “leader”, “choker”, “chain” or other correction device in place of the word leash above.) At this point the dog now understands that the owner is appropriately prepared for the antics and may begin running, jumping, barking, pulling, growling… For most owners facing this situation, the pulling increases, yelling might ensue, and the dog and owner eventually get what they have been trained to expect from the situation. At this point we have failed to “correct” the “problem”, and are disappointed that it has all happened again…Maybe next time the owner will yell “NO” a little louder! Or, let’s take control appropriately and add a little redirection, not a correction.
Redirection involves taking the dog’s attention from a distracting stimulus and getting the dog to focus on the owner, who may then ask the dog to perform the appropriate behavior. In the example above, and in many other scenarios, getting the dog’s attention, and having it “sit” works well. Now instead of the antics, we have a dog sitting. Reinforce this behavior with tons of praise and attention, you are doing great! The dog may still feel challenged, wanting to get up, regressing to the same-old-same-old. DO NOT CORRECT, KEEP REDIRECTING! Ask the dog to sit again, and again reinforce the great behavior. Don’t get upset, don’t yell, and don’t punish…Keep asking for the most desirable behavior. Of course this may seem too easy, that’s because it takes patience and practice. The amount of attention an owner can capture from the dog is usually limited by the level of distraction, so start your practice in a neutral environment and build up more distraction. Once you have it mastered, you will never have to say no again…And your dog will love you for it!
Lose the Leash
San Diego Dog Training
I’d just add that during the first few attempts, the cycle of interrupt, redirect using cue(or command), and reward often needs to occur many times in quick succession, which is challenging, and demands owner patience and focus.
It does, however, work wonders, and you’ve done an excellent job of giving an overview.
Typically, the “shht” or other “whispers” function well if they are used to interrupt the bad behavior, and create an opening for the owner to instruct the desired behavior. It’s the failure to complete the cycle that results in ineffective use of such distractors.