Monday, December 2, 2013

Redirecting, the "How To" and "Whys"

First things first.  Redirecting, what does it mean?  Simply put, it means to ask your dog to do something else in place of what it is doing.  Say you have a chronic jumper.  You may not mind it all of the time, but lets say you are in your nice work clothes, or your frail elderly neighbor is coming over to say hi. How do you get your dog to not jump on everyone, every time? (to understand why they jump on you click here) 
 The best way is to simply ask them to do something else every time they are going to want to jump.  Note, you need to ask them before they jump. Asking for a sit before they get to you is what usually works the best when it comes to jumping, just remember to praise, and pet for good behavior.  Your dogs is simply happy to see you and is asking for your attention, don't forget that negative attention is still attention, and if your dog is so anxious for it they will take the negative attention as reinforcement for their behavior.  My suggestion is to make your dog's default behavior a nice sit at your feet, then if you would like your dog to put it's paws on you, you can ask for it.

When it comes to the mounting behavior, which has very little to do with social climbing or dominance behavior, you will need to watch your dog and get to know the cues he or she displays before the mounting behavior commences. To see why they do this, and how to fix it read here.  To use a "redirection behavior" here, you will need to get your dog's attention and ask for a sit, or maybe play tug, then offer the other end of the tug toy to the other dog (if the other dog is social).  I also suggest some well timed yawns, as well as glancing away from your dog to help your him or her calm down. Those are calming signals that dogs use on themselves and those around them to help them calm down. If you use them the can also help them to calm down as well.

Another way of looking at redirecting is breaking an old habit, and replacing it with a new habit.  Don't forget the rule of thumb 30 days to break an old habit and 30 days to make a new one.  Now this doesn't mean that it is going to take two months, nor does it mean that it will take only one. Think of it instead as 30 to 60 training sessions.  Now your dog may catch on faster than that, but please remember to give your dog the benefit of the doubt and don't expect too much of him or her too fast.  The younger the dog the less "set in" the habits will be and they will generally be easier to change.  However, don't despair if you have an older dog with bad habits you want to change, they can be, it might just take a bit more patience on your part.
 Now to the why, why bother with all that work of redirecting when all you want is the behavior to stop.  Have you ever tried to break a habit that you had and wanted to get rid of, smoking, nail biting, eating too much junk food?  What helped the most?  Simply stopping cold turkey?  Did you use replacement behaviors, such as snapping a rubber band on your wrist, or eating something else that maybe wasn't quite as bad for you?  You are much more likely to be successful at changing your habits, as well as your dog's if you replace it with something else.  It's as simple as that.  Here's to you and your dog's new behaviors!

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