We’ve all laughed at something silly our dogs have done, even if it’s something they shouldn’t have been doing, at one time or another. Sometimes especially if it’s something they shouldn’t have been doing. Recently, a dear friend of mine posted a picture on a social networking site of her dog doing something generally not permissible in the world of doggy behavior. And of course, there were plenty of comments from her dog loving friends about how cute or funny it was. And, of course, her dog’s trainer (me) commented that she should have been redirecting the behavior, not taking pictures of it, which I’m sure got lots of eye rolls from not only my friend, but all of her other dog loving friends who thought the picture was cute too.
So, why isn’t it ok to take that cute pic of your dog trashing the toilet paper roll before you deal with the behavior? Because every millisecond you spend allowing the behavior to go on, if it is a self-rewarding behavior, is a de facto endorsement of the behavior. It only increases the chance that that behavior will be repeated. And, you most certainly are smiling, if not outright laughing while you are doing it; “See, mom is making that funny face she makes when she likes something…I should drag toilet paper all over the house more often!” Dogs can read us like a book, so despite the fact that we might be saying “No, No Bad Dog”, if our body language is saying, “Yea! Isn’t she funny!” which message do you think the dog is getting? If you picked the happy message…Click! Treat! You hit the nail on the head! And while you might find that behavior entertaining at that particular moment, you aren’t going to find it so funny when you’re cleaning up toilet paper, or whatever other mischief the dog is getting into, every day for the rest of the dog’s life.
Laugh it up if you must, but understand that every time you wink at your dog’s misbehavior, you are guaranteeing it will happen again.
Christine Geschwill is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed and the owner of Purely Positive Dog Training.