When To Use Consequences For Your Dog…
When we think of the word consequences, we often think of them in a negative way…ie. consequences are discipline for bad behavior. But in fact, consequences can be for good behavior also. A consequence is simply what results from any behavior, good or bad.
For your dog, all consequences must be immediate and consistent (think “Sneaky” dog!) in order to effect a change of behavior or reinforce a good behavior.
You cannot delay a consequence, good or bad, and expect a dog to associate it with what you are thinking of. It does not work that way. (ex: Dogs do not feel guilt. If you came home glaring at me for something you think I did wrong, I might look pitiful and try to assuage your anger, too.) The good or bad consequence will end up being associated with other things that are present at the moment the consequence is given, as well as affecting the behavior of your dog, in his mind, for something else. Consequences are only “Good” or “Bad” as viewed by the trainee, not the being issuing the consequence. For example, your child gets an A on his report card. You give him/her a candy bar that is her favorite, a good consequence, but if you gave her liver, and if she disliked liver, the liver would be a bad consequence. Meanwhile, to the dog whom she slips the liver to when you are not looking, liver is a good consequence, if the dog likes liver.
Don’t be confused…
If any of this confuses you, don’t let it bother you, simply remember this:
You have complete control of the resources your dog wants.
To simplify what that means, ask yourself a simple yes or no question: Did my Dog like that and does he want more of it? If you think the answer is yes, then you have found something he will work for. If not, then try something else. Also, your dog will be interested in different things at different times, and what works at home when nothing is happening or distracting, is not necessary going to hold up when a squirrel runs by during a STAY or a COME cue.
You are in control…
It is up to you to choose and to utilize rewards. You have the power! To clarify which behavior you like and are rewarding, we recommend you use a marker signal, such as an enthusiastic word such as “YES!” Focus on giving/beginning the “Good Things” as your primary means for reinforcing behaviors you like.
Being a fair, clear and consistent leader and teacher is your right and responsibility; however, there is a lot of misinformation out today that says you have to “Be the Boss” or “the Alpha” or “Pack Leader”. While being a good leader is important, our method of training doesn’t rely on tactics of “dominance.” We simply want to teach the dog how to make good choices so he can earn what he wants in life. After all, don’t we all feel that way? Who wants to work for a domineering boss at their job?
As a dog trainer, I believe that the most effective method of dog training revolves around teaching your dog what you want them to do, how to behave, how to act in their environment, and what appropriate behaviors are under given circumstances and situations.