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The single most effective tool to prevent bad habits.

Dogs are very predictable - they do what dogs do.  They are born knowing how to sniff out hidden morsels, excavate to find things, carry things in their mouths and keep things that they find.  They call out when they are lost so their mothers can find them.  They pee when they need to go.


They aren't born knowing that humans have weird rules.  That when you need to relieve yourself, for some weird reason, indoors is different than outdoors and carpet isn't the same as grass.  That kid toys aren't dog toys.  That underwear left outside the hamper isn't a dog toy.  That if you find a sandwich on the coffee table, it isn't automatically yours. 


If you catch a dog in the act and respond with corrections, they can learn that those things are only available if no one is watching; that it's safer to pee in the basement where no one will see you to avoid the yelling.  They learn this by AVOIDING unpleasant consequences and waiting until it's safe or finding a safer location.  They don't learn those things because dogs are inherently sneaky, but because dogs are good at observation and impending consequences.  They learn to avoid YOU.


The answer is not concocting bigger better ways to catch them  in the act so you can correct them, but managing the environment so it is "mistake proof " and carefully teaching the dog what you DO want.  Catch them getting it right!


Do you want your dog to get better at dodging and dashing around furniture when he has something that you'd like to get back from him?  Then don't chase him.  Teach him to bring it to you.  Teach a willing exchange. 




This is the single most important piece of advice that every dog owner needs to remember, and very few take to heart.


People tend to wait until the dog has gotten it wrong to address the issues.  A lot of training and correcting and anger goes into trying to repair bad behavior.  It would be SO MUCH EASIER to teach the dog proper behavior in the first place.


  • Dogs will run away if you don't teach them how to come.

  • Dogs will go exploring if you don't provide a safe way to keep them home.

  • Dogs will pull against their collar as long as you pull back, unless you keep the leash slack and teach them the benefits of walking as slowly as you do.

  • Dogs will sniff, touch, eat, take things if they are left within reach and the dog is interested in them unless you teach them not to touch things without permission and what things are theirs to have whenever they want.   They can't know the difference without direction and guidance.

  • Dogs must play and problem solve and have exercise.  Dogs who don't get enough of these things in the right way, will expend that energy in ways you find disaggreeable. Teach them games you can play together.

  • Dogs will greet visitors with enthusiasm - friendly or not, unless you teach them how to keep four on the floor.

  • Dogs will follow their instincts and do what dogs do unless you put a lot of time and effort into teaching them what you want them to do instead.

  • Dogs will repeat ANY behavior that they find rewarding.  Reward them!

She's found the gate left open.  Will she come if you call her?   Or dash off down the street before you can stop her?  The answer depends on learning history and practice getting it right.


It is so much more difficult to break a bad habit than to create a new one. 


Stay in the yard, don't bolt out the door and come when called can be extremely difficult to re-train if the dog has had fun on excursions, successful in getting out the door or over or under the fence, especially if he's had a great time once he's out.  It can be extremely difficult to rebuild trust and a reliable recall if when he got out the result of being caught was punishment.



This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:
© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People -
ditr_training @ -



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