Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Your Dog's Not Listening

It’s three in the morning. You’re in your pajamas standing in the doorway, whisper-yelling out to the yard, “Fido! Pssst! Fido! Come!”  You just want to go back to bed, or at least back inside before the neighbors think you’re crazy. Fido, however, has a different idea. He’s decided he suddenly can’t hear you calling and he’s going to smell every inch of the backyard before coming back inside.
Why does he do this? Because Fido, like all dogs, knows there is a “before and after” to everything.
It's cause and effect, or Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence (ABC). Fido knows that you call him, he comes running to you and (cue ominous music) he's locked back inside the house...F-O-R-E-V-E-R!
If you want your dog to listen, you’ve got to set up the environment so that he always feels that he will gain something - the age old, “what’s in it for me?”
Become unpredictable. If Fido doesn't know whether or not coming to you will result in play, treats or going inside, he has to gamble.  Most likely, he will make this decision based on what's happened more in the past. You want to make it so that he's willing to bet you might be offering something he wants.
Always, always reward the right choice. And the wrong one. Let's say that it's been about 3 minutes of you enticing your dog. You're frustrated and angry when he finally decides to mosey on over to you. Choosing to scold or punish him for his delayed response will only confirm in his mind: "next time, don't come back at all because if I do, I'll just get in trouble!"
Make it fun. Calling your dog to come inside has to sound like it's better than staying outside. Try calling Fido in an upbeat voice and run away from him, then reward him with play once he gets in the doors. That way, he won’t see coming inside as impending doom, but rather just another doorway to fun!

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