Training Dogs And Humans For A More Enjoyable Life Together

By Susan Smith, East Valley Dog Training

Answers to questions are based on the information provided. It’s always a good idea to have your pet thoroughly examined by a veterinarian when having behavior problems. Although I can give general information and management suggestions on serious behavior problems such as aggression, issues such as these can be a very serious problem and a certified dog trainer should be consulted.

One of the things that is most important to good pet behavior, but one of the hardest to do, is be consistent. Consistency allows your pet to know what is expected of him; whereas, inconsistency sends mixed messages.

Let’s using jumping on people as an example. Some dogs are really jumpy, and it can be a big problem. Let’s say you’re really good about not letting your dog jump on you when you come home from work, because you’re dressed in good clothes, and don’t want them dirty or torn. And, you’re pretty good about not letting him jump the rest of the time, because you really don’t like the behavior. But, sometimes you get distracted: you’re on the phone, the doorbell rings, you’re working hard on something and concentrating. During those times, you let the dog jump on you, not because you like the behavior, but because your focus is elsewhere. Or sometimes when he jumps you laugh and pet him, because you have your jeans on and it doesn’t matter.

These situations where you’re not paying attention can give the dog those mixed signals. It’s possible he’ll discriminate between situations, but if there are enough times when you aren’t consistent, it can become a problem. And those times when you actively reward the behavior really send mixed messages.

I do want to say that dogs can discriminate pretty easily. So, if one family member is consistent about never allowing the dog to jump on them, but another family member is not consistent. The dog will jump on the inconsistent person, but not the consistent person. I often have clients ask about this, because almost invariable one family member cares about the behavior and the other doesn’t. So, my advice is to just worry about how your pet interacts with you and it should work out.

Finally, it’s very tempting to allow puppies to do behaviors we don’t want an adult dog to do. I strongly recommend thinking about what you’re going to want when the dog is fully grown. Do you want your 160 lb. Great Dane on the furniture? Do you want your Labradoodle jumping on you. Do you want your Shih Tzu playing tug of war with the leash? All of these behaviors are cute when puppies to them, but not so cute when the dog is grown. If you don’t want the adult dog to do the behavior, don’t let the puppy do the behavior.

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Susan Smith, CDBC, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer in San Tan Valley, AZ, specializing in pet dog training as well as cat and parrot training—from obedience behaviors to serious problems such as aggression. She can be contacted at:

Sue is also the owner of Raising Canine, LLC which provides professional education to animal trainers.