Why Your Puppy's Behavior is Not ImprovingFeb 15, 2023
In this article, I discuss the top three reasons why your puppy's behavior is not improving. This article is also Puppy Talk Podcast episode #63. You can listen to that episode here.
The number one reason why your puppy's behavior is not improving is that their behavior is being reinforced. For this article, I'm going to use puppy jumping as an example. When your puppy is jumping on you or anybody else, and you are pushing your puppy down and saying no, stop, off, down, or saying their name, your puppy's getting reinforced for that behavior.
You cannot talk to or touch the puppy while they are in the process of doing the behavior, or it will be reinforced. The reason is that your puppy doesn't exactly know what you're saying. Those words are not programmed into the puppy's software yet, and you're giving them affection every time you touch your puppy and try to push them down. You're giving them attention, and in their mind, they're thinking, I'm getting attention. They're talking to me. I don't know what they're saying, but I must be doing something right, so I'm going to keep doing it. That's not a good way to stop a puppy's behavior. Once the puppy is in the process of doing the behavior, you have to go back to prevent the behavior from happening. The process is to correct it and redirect it before the puppy jumps, and I've talked about this in many past articles.
Most owners unconsciously reinforce a puppy's behavior, such as jumping, play biting, chewing, or barking, and they don't even know it until a dog trainer goes over to their house and tells them that everything they're doing has been reinforcing the puppy's behavior.
The second reason your puppy's behavior is not improving is you're trying to fix the puppy instead of teaching the puppy. Using the jumping, for example, while they're jumping, you're trying to fix it. I get asked this question a lot by everybody who hires me to train their puppy. How do I stop play-biting? How do I stop jumping? How do I stop barking? How do I stop pulling on the leash?
I don't think of it that way. I don't think of fixing a puppy because we can't just take a part out and put a new part in, and the puppy is fixed. The paradigm shift of mindset has to be "what do I want the puppy to do instead of the behavior that I don't want?" For example, if the puppy is jumping, what do we want the puppy to do instead? That would be to lay down and stay. How can a puppy jump if they're lying down and staying?
So you want to ask yourself, "what can I have my puppy do instead of jumping?" Go to your bed, lay down, and stay. That's a great one. You teach your puppy a place or bed command, and they go there. They stay. They can't jump. You're preventing them from rehearsing that behavior by focusing on what you want the puppy to do instead of trying to fix your puppy.
The third reason your puppy's behavior is not improving is that you're not being consistent. This is what happens. You start implementing the positive reinforcement techniques that I suggest, such as going to the bed or place, lying down, and staying, but you're not being consistent with it. Every time your puppy jumps on somebody, or your puppy play bites, or every time your puppy barks or pulls on the leash, they're getting rewarded for that behavior. It's being reinforced. You have to be consistent with not allowing them to even exhibit that behavior in the first place.
If your puppy has already started behaviors you don't want, be consistent on enforcing the behaviors that you want and preventing the puppy from exhibiting the behaviors you don't want, you'll get much better results this way.
I have a free gift for you. It's called the Behavior Modification Chart, with simple and effective tips to reduce unwanted puppy behaviors. You can download that chart here.