Getting the Behavior You Want on Command

Deterring Misbehavior

Much of what people think of as misbehavior is actually normal, healthy behavior that has gone awry. Maybe the dog chose an inappropriate target when she picked up the remote control instead of one of her toys when she had the need to chew. Or perhaps she picked a bad time or place to urinate, like on the dining room floor during dinner.

Providing your dog with appropriate outlets for her normal behaviors and keeping her busy with regular mental and physical exercise are great ways to keep her from misbehaving out of boredom and frustration from excess energy.

Prevention

Until you’re sure your dog understands the rules of house, don’t give her the freedom to make bad choices. Use a combination of supervision and confinement to prevent her from making, and by default getting rewarded for, poor choices. Chapter 4 explains how to use confinement options like crates, gates, and tethers to help prevent misbehavior.

For now, unless your dog is safely confined, you can assume that if you don’t see him, something bad is happening. Property damage is occurring, whether it’s a possession being chewed or a rug being pooped on. Know what he’s up to!

Deterrents

In addition to prevention, you’ll probably also have to make use of deterrent (or aversive) devices like shaker bottles, spray bottles, or squirt guns to help you interrupt behavior you don’t like. It’s not enough just to stop her from chewing the remote; you also have to redirect her to more acceptable forms of entertainment. As often as possible, you want to use deterrents in a sneak attack, connecting the unwanted behavior with a negative consequence, like a shaker bottle falling from the sky, or a blast from the squirt gun. After the correction, you get to be the sympathetic good guy, showing her what is okay.

If you have to go looking for a deterrent, it’s too late, so keep plenty of them handy. It doesn’t take most dogs long to figure out that every time they grab the remote, or your sunglasses, or the houseplant, something bad happens. Ideally, time the correction when your dog is just grabbing the forbidden treasure, rather than when she’s contentedly chewing it up.

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