When Yelling "Stop Doing That!" Isn't Working: Distract and Redirect
September 09, 2012
Your dog can exhibit a number of behaviors that you would prefer they didn’t do. They bark at people as they walk down the street, they charge the delivery man as he brings your packages; they chew on shoes, and steal our socks. The list could go on and on. There are thousands of things you don’t want your dog to do. That is why it is so important to teach them what you DO want them to do. You could spend your entire day yelling at your dog to stop doing this, don’t do that, but what fun is that? When your dog starts barking at the stranger walking down the road and then you start yelling at him to stop, likely what he is thinking is "Yes! See mom’s joining in too! Hear her yelling at you! Get out of here! Come on Mom; let’s get this guy outta here!" It’s often surprising how many times people will yell at their dog to stop doing the same thing over and over and over, and guess what…the dog is still doing it. So, perhaps, the yelling is not working? So what do you do?
Follow two basic rules. First, you distract, and then you redirect. Let us say for example, your puppy is chewing on the remote. Obviously, this is not something he should do. First, you simply distract; you can say "eh, eh," a quick no, or clap your hands a couple of times. The point is not that you scare your dog or punish him severely; you just want to get him to stop chewing on it. Then, once you have distracted him, you redirect his behavior by giving him an appropriate chew toy such as a bone. Then, praise him for being such a good boy. His brain thinks "Wow, when I chew on this bone, Mom really likes it and I do too! I’m going to do this much more often." Remember to reward what you want to see more often! If after you’ve done this, a few hours later, he chooses his bone to chew on rather than the remote, let him know he’s doing the right thing by praising him, rubbing his belly, or even giving him a treat. Whatever he likes best is fine.
Your distraction can often be something fun. You can squeak a toy to get their attention, whistle, grab a treat, or even run away for a fun game of chase. Always remember to follow up and redirect them to the behavior that you’d like them to do in that situation. Practice all the time and make it a habit. With consistency you’ll have a dog that sits and looks at you when someone walks down the street rather than barking his head off! Dog training is a partnership with you and your dog; you are building a relationship between the two of you. It’s not about being the boss or always being in control. That’s not fun for anyone. Wouldn’t you rather have a strong bond with your dog and feel that you are in this together for each other?
For more information on dog training check out these great books:
- Plenty in Life is Free by Kathy Sdao
- The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell
- Train Your Dog Like a Pro by Jean Donaldson