I was in Ball Ground a few weeks ago with a new Home Dog Training client and his Bloodhound, Duke.  I had been called in to help them because Duke had very severe separation anxiety.  My client had rescued Duke from a situation where a homeowner had just packed up and left the area with ten dogs left in kennels in the back yard.  Ever since he had Duke, he was a little nervous whenever he left, but it just seemed to be getting more and more severe.  He came home to potty all over the floor, books torn up, baseboards chewed, and curtains ripped.  He would correct Duke and nothing happened.  I put my client on a program that would take care of the separation anxiety in about two weeks. After checking in with him, things are getting much better.  My client really wanted to be a good dog owner and asked if there was anything he had to watch out for when working with Duke. 

I had already reviewed the separation anxiety program with him, so I decided to focus on another major mistake that most of us make with our dogs.  One of the things that my client mentioned was that when he came home, he would correct Duke for all the bad things he had been doing during the day while he was at work.  In his mind, he had assumed that Duke knew that all those actions of destroying and messing things up were wrong and he could easily attach the inappropriateness of those actions to the later action of correction from my client.  …Not going to happen!

It is perfectly appropriate and necessary to let your dog know when they are doing something wrong.  It is also important to let them know when they are doing something correct.  The most important aspect of our actions is that they take place at the moment of incorrect or correct behavior.  You must always think of yourself saying “You are wrong” or “You are correct”.   Dogs can only associate our correction or praise with the action in which they are currently engaged.

When my client came home and corrected Duke for tearing up the curtains, he was asleep on his bed.  Duke awoke to the correction and became confused; he thought it was fine to be on his bed.  He had always been on his bed before and now his owner was telling him that was wrong.  He saw his master as inconsistent and somewhat of a “nut case”.  This lessened his respect for him and took away his need to give his owner focus and obedience.

So, the simple rule that you must follow is to correct your dog only when they are in the act of doing something wrong and praise them immediately when they are doing something right.  This allows them to easily associate the correction with “wrong, don’t do this” and associates the praising with “great, continue to do this”.

My client also wondered what he should do if he came home and found that Duke had destroyed the curtains while he was not there.  The answer is simple.  He should do nothing.  He was not there to correct Duke when he was in the act of doing something wrong.  He can’t correct.  I told him that this could be a really difficult thing to do.  Seeing that Duke had torn up his curtains could make him really angry and he really wanted “to let Duke have it”.  Unfortunately, doing that will lessen Duke’s respect for him and his willingness to obey him.

I told him that the one thing he can do is to set the scene for success.  If Duke was having problems with chewing the curtains, he could raise them off the ground when he left for work.  If Duke chewed the baseboards or destroyed other household items, he could place Duke in a crate or laundry room away from those items (based on the separation anxiety instructions and specific situation).  Although this is somewhat of a “cheat”, it saves his home from Duke’s destructive anxiety while he is following my separation anxiety training process.  This maintains the association of right and wrong and also allows the learning process to properly proceed.

The most important thing to take away from all of this is that you want to correct in order to educate your dog.  Correcting because you want to punish your dog does no good at all.  We hope this will help.

Please call Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help.  We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Ball Ground Georgia.  Find all our cell phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Ball Ground Georgia.