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First of all, when correcting your dog, the most important thing to understand is that your dog must be corrected in a way that they can understand. As with most aspects of dog training the answer is quite obvious but you’ll never guess it until it’s been explained to you.

One of our dog trainers, working at Pedigree Canine Dog Training Academy

Most owners will use human forms of discipline to correct their dog’s behaviour because we’ve never had to discipline anything else in any other way. Therefore, our human response of disciplining in human terms is so natural and innate to us that we do not even consider the possibility that our dogs cannot understand such human interpreted measures.

There’s a common equation that fits human forms of discipline to the canine conception of that incoming information:

Human, long duration, discipline = An ATTENTION EVENT.

The easiest way to explain this phenomenon of canine interpretation of an attention event is to describe the common disorder of reactive home fouling…

You return home from work after a long and hard day and all you want is to relax in front of the telly but instead you open the front door to find your dog has fouled the hallway and left a rather unwanted welcome home present for you to clean up. Your dog excitedly runs to greet you but instead of returning his jubilation you use your human form of discipline to sternly rebuke the dog and spend a minute or two yelling at them for being a bad dog. The next day, you catch your dog laying down another deposit and again you use human forms of discipline to engage and disuade the dog over the course of a minute or so. A few days later the same thing happens. Your human interpretation of your dog’s behaviour is frustrated because as far as you’re concerned you’re doing everything you can to correct the dog’s behaviour and let your dog know in human terms that their behaviour is unwanted.

Your dog’s perception of these events however is quite different to your own. Over the course of these few days and these few events your dog has quickly correlated a pattern of behaviour that he perceives as captivating your complete attention. Dogs are genetically predisposed to seeking advantage and influence within the Pack which defers promotional opportunities within the Pack to the individual concerned. The most obvious example of probable promotion within the Pack is for a subordinate pack member to gain the complete attention of the Pack Leaders: ATTENTION = STATUS.

In terms of answering the original question, the reason your dog’s behaviour becomes more frenzied at the time of correction is because your dog perceives your methods of correction as a manipulation opportunity instead of a disciplinary correction. Your dog then begins to successfully manipulate regular long duration one-on-one attention events by doing the exact thing that initiates your failed attempts at such a “correction”.

Therefore, once your dog has understood that this pattern of behaviour inexorably and inevitably leads to a significant one-on-one attention event with their matriarch or patriarch, the dog immediately learns that this behaviour is advantageous.

A dog cannot possibly understand the human subtleties of wanted and unwanted attention. A dog simply perceives all interpack attention as being positive and, of more concern, creating avenues of promotion within the Pack which leads to its own separate reactive issues, commonly based in aggression or anxiety (or both).

Far from clearly indicating that your dogs behaviour is unwanted, your human form of discipline and corrective technique has instead clearly indicated to your dog that this behaviour is wanted, acceptable abd enormously advantageous. You have, in essence, created a reactive disorder in your dog whereby the behaviour you least desire becomes the behaviour your dog chooses to action.

So, we understand that our human interpretation of discipline and corrections are not appropriate to display at any time to your dog. How then is it possible to correct canine unwanted behaviour?

Correct technique for correcting unwanted behaviour in your dog is extremely important for the above mentioned reasons. You must never at any time indicate an attention event. Therefore, it’s important to understand the purpose of a proper correction. Your correction should be implemented for one reason alone and that is to immediately stop the unwanted behaviour at hand and create a small window in time whereby your dog is in a neutral mode and can be influenced to behave in a different manner.

In order to achieve this we use a short sharp shock of a low toned negative vocalisation such as “NO!” together with a simultaneously and aggressively pointed finger which is pointed directly at the offending party.

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The correction should burst out from the owner at exactly the correct time so the dog can correlate the correction to the event, behaviour or activity he’s engaged in. It’s very important to realise that if you miss the opportunity to correct your dog at the exact point where the correction was necessary you must refrain from any correction whatsoever as your dog cannot possibly understand the historic nature of your displeasure. You have around 10 seconds to instigate a correction so that your dog can learn from his mistake. If you try and correct behaviour beyond this time limit you will only succeed in eroding the trust between you.

Correctly instigated, initiated and delivered corrections should result in the immediate cessation of any unwanted behaviour and simultaneously create a window of opportunity for you to guide your dog into a more appropriate behaviour that pleases you and enhances Pack harmony. It’s important to understand that you must be convincing with your short sharp shock method. If you are not convinced yourself that you are extremely and quite aggressively frustrated (in verbal terms only) then your dog will simply disregard your attempt at a feeble correction and you will not achieve the above mentioned “window of opportunity”. Your low toned correction must explode out of you for the duration of less than a second. When it makes those around you jump, you’ll also capture your erent dogs focused attention.

The space in time that you create will be extremely limited in duration. Immediately upon the cessation of unwanted behaviour you should re-engage your dog by taking him away from the area of the correction and either going through some basic obedience commands with accompanying reward structure or by taking the dog to the correct environment to action any activities (like toileting for example) and explosively rewarding any wanted behaviour or actions so that your dog can begin to understand your expectations; that certain behaviour is properly and consistently corrected whereas other (wanted) behaviour results in explosive rewards.

The delicate marriage of correction and reward indicates a just and fair patriarchal leadership. Try to always end every correction event positively by guiding your dog to a different environment at least 10 seconds after (very important to create a buffer between the unwanted behaviour you are correcting and the wanted behaviour you are rewarding; lest your dog correlates the reward with the previous unwanted behaviour event) the unwanted behaviour and initiating any form of wanted behaviour that can be rewarded.

In the case of the example of home fouling, correct the dog then remove them to the proper environment to toilet in. Should they go to the toilet in a wanted place, explosively praise and reward your dog.

Follow this tutorial to begin successfully influencing your dogs behaviour instead of your dog seeking opportunities to manipulate pack influence and their pack position.


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