I have just two dogs now, but at one time we had 4 and to say that at times things got out of control was an understatement. More often than not, regardless of the undesired behavior, it followed a familiar pattern. One or more dogs would begin doing something we didn't want them to do. The energy level would begin to escalate (times 4), and in a knee jerk reaction to stop the bad behavior, we would begin saying, then yelling "NO"! Looking back on it, I think the yelling really just fueled the fire. The result was that the dogs still did the undesired behavior, everyone was yelling and frustrated and nothing had changed.
I decided I needed to take a different approach - I didn't want to be always yelling at my dogs and frustrated beyond belief. I am always the one saying "Do it with love in your heart" - and I realized I was saying it but not doing it. After tons of reading, and being realistic about what I could expect - I decided for our dogs the best approach was to give them something they COULD do, when they began doing something I didn't want them to do.
I don't know what Mom is talking about in this post - I am ALWAYS good!
I was realistic in that I wasn't going to strive for perfection, expecting them to never do any offending behaviors. I was just going to find a way to alter the offending behavior that was positive for them and doable for all of us. The change in response to their behavior needed to come from me. So for Biddy and Tristan the thing that they CAN do, that is positive and also puts a stop to ALL activity is SIT, STAY.
Part of our exercise routine involves rapid fire SIT, STAY, DOWN, STAND and a few other things thrown in. Therefore, they associate SIT, STAY with something positive...as they usually get a treat or super love fest after doing it. In the show dog world you are encouraged NOT to teach your dog to sit. I think this comes from the fear that if your dog gets used to going into an automatic SIT, that it will sit in the show ring, which is a no no. Well, from the minute Biddy came home as a puppy she was (and still is) a wild maniac. In an effort to have some sort of control and stop the constant motion, I went against the show world grain and taught her a SIT. I also taught her a STAND at the same time. It has worked for us and she has never, ever, ever sat in the show ring...not even once! :)
One of the biggest sources of discontent at our house was the after dinner cleanup time. As soon as I would open the dishwasher to begin loading in the dirty dishes the dogs would come racing over - sometimes from a dead sleep, and begin wildly licking the dirty dishes. Sometimes putting their paws up on the open door, then me trying to get them all off. As soon as you would get one back, the other would be up there. In about 10 seconds I'm frustrated, raising my voice, the dogs are pushing and shoving to the dishwasher, my husband joins in the yelling, the dogs sense that the fun will be over soon, so they are licking the dishes more furiously than ever...and this scene repeats itself every night, holy crap I've had enough!!!
So armed with this idea that I would give them something positive that they can do in lieu of the offending behavior - I decided I was going to put it in practice and make a change. With a yummy treat in hand, I opened the dishwasher and then showed the dogs the treat...which immediately got everyone's attention. I then walked them about 5 feet away from the dishwasher and put them in a SIT, STAY facing the dishwasher. I set their treats up on the counter and began loading the dishes in. Each time someone would move forward, I would give them the "ACH" sound - which they understand WAY better than saying the word NO, and place them back in the SIT, STAY.
It took about three days before we could make it through loading the dishes in without anyone moving. After I close up the dishwasher - I then call them forward for their treats - which is usually a piece of vegetable or cheese. We are now all in a peaceful state after dinner, no yelling and everyone is happy. For us, this concept of giving something positive that they CAN do has really worked. They are not perfect by any means. When things get out of hand, I have to remember that instead of screaming "NO" - I need to ask them for a behavior that they have a positive association with which is SIT STAY...something good always happens! My next "offending behavior" that I am going to try to tackle is the crashing into the wall on the way into the laundry room for feeding time. As they race towards the laundry room for breakfast or dinner, they have to make a turn, which they have decided to cushion by bouncing themselves off the wall, crashing into it like hockey players.
I am constantly having to clean the dirty foot prints off the wall and they have nicked up the wood work in a big way. I've got to somehow slow them down...hmmm What offending behaviors are you trying to correct with your dogs? What has worked for you?