Drayton Michaels, CTC is the owner of Urban Dawgs Dog Training in Red Banks, NJ. He also holds a Certification in Dog Training and Behavior Counseling from the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers (known as “the Harvard for dog trainers”).
What influences dog behavior?
You always want to look at the environment and human behavior.
Unfortunately, too many people are focused on the dog too much. We have to understand what the dog is doing, we have to look at the dog, but if you focus on the environment and human behavior, training goes much better because now you are focused on what you are going to do.
What I always say is: you can’t predict what’s going to happen but you can prepare how you’ll respond. Right? So, you want to make sure that you are focused on the environment and human behavior and then the dog learns really well.
So as Dr. Susan Freeman says behaviors in the environment not in the dog.
I’ll give you that example by something as simple as your living room, 8 o’clock in the morning, in your living room, you trained and everything is going great, 8 o’clock at night, your friends ring the doorbell with pizza and beer and now your dog’s distracted and barking and not listening. And again they are not being stubborn or they are not doing anything on purpose to disengage from you and pay attention to the people who are walking in. You just have to change your training approach at that point.
So, how do you apply this?
It is so easy for us to get frustrated with our dogs. It seems like they know something one moment and then seem completely clueless at another moment.
An example of this with my dogs is: Truffle is pretty good with his “come” cue. He will run up to me every single time and just be such a good boy. However, when one of his friends is over (dog or kid) he completely turns a death ear to me.
Someone looking into this might say “Your dog is not very well trained, he is stubborn or he is disobedient” however he is not.
The simple thing that is happening here is that I am just not as fun as his friends. I have not provided enough high-value reinforcement that would make him want to leave all this fun and come see boring mom.
So, this is an opportunity for me as the pet parent to re-evaluate my training and look at the environment to see how I can work with Truffle on his cues.
We all need to remember that when our dogs are not listening to us, it is not because they are bad but because the environment is too distracting or we have simply not taught them how to act “proper;u” in this situation or we have not made it “worth” their time or provided reinforcement in this situation.