Nasty Dog, Naughty Dog, or Nice Dog?

What makes a naughty, nasty, or nice dog? Something as simple as client perception and education. Many clients attach human intent and motivations to their dog’s behaviors. A nice dog sits when being petted, a naughty one jumps, and a nasty one bites and mouths. The professional dog training community understands that is simply not true. Jumping is a natural behavior for an exuberant, friendly dog to display. Training is required for that dog to learn what is “nice” in the world of humans. But the behavior of jumping is hardly naughty.  

While we can extrapolate from behavioral cues what intent might be, we’re frequently not sure. What we do know with certainty is the behavior the dog is exhibiting and the context in which it occurs. We also know whether that behavior is desirable, and therefore worthy of encouraging, or undesirable and a good target for modification. Helping our clients to focus on behavior will help them be successful in their training efforts. Some simple concepts that are a part of most training plans will be easier for your clients to understand if they focus on their dog’s behavior instead of assigning human emotions to their dog.

These concepts include:

  • Managing undesirable behaviors so that the dog isn’t practicing and perfecting them;
  • Training a behavior that the client wants the dog to repeat; and
  • Refraining from rewarding undesirable behaviors so they extinguish over time.

As a professional dog trainer, it’s your job to help your clients understand that dogs are not humans and that they don’t operate under the same motivations as their tricky and emotionally complex owners. Be detailed in pointing out specific behaviors that the client likes. Explain that if you make it worth his while, the client’s dog will repeat these behaviors over and over again. Again – focus on behavior. If you, the K9 expert, focus on behavior, then so too will your client!

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