Dog’s Eye View: The worst kept secret |

Dog’s Eye View: The worst kept secret

Sandra Kruczek

Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian and behaviorist, once said, “Don’t keep the household rules a secret from your dog.”

There are many ways that this can happen. Some folks think that catching their new puppy or adopted dog in the act of making a mistake and “spanking” him is the way to teach him what the rules are. He might think about what he just did if your timing was immediately after the accident. Or, if you’re late in spanking him, you may have disciplined him for something totally unrelated.

A classic example of this is jumping up behavior. Dogs are inadvertently rewarded by us for doing this by being petted sometimes and punished at other times. We’re happy to have him jump up on us when we’re playing or have our blue jeans on but will spank him and push him away when we’re all dressed up.

The problem with the “spanking” line of thinking is that you’ve not shown him what it is you’d like him to do.

For example, we often ask our students, “What would you rather have your dog do instead of jumping up on you?”

It’s interesting that their first response is often, “I don’t want him to jump up on me.”

If we repeat the question, there’s usually a moment of silence then the “A ha! moment” reveals the household rule that has been kept a secret from their dog. “I would like him to sit to be greeted by me and our guests.”

The clear difference is that spanking leaves your dog wandering in the dark.

An example of this that we’ve demonstrated in our classes is as follows: I welcome you into my living room then I walk into the kitchen without saying anything. You look around and sit in the nearest chair. I rush into the living room and tell you not to sit there then walk out again. You are puzzled, but sit on the couch. I rush into the living room and tell you not to sit on the couch then walk out again.

You’ve discovered what you cannot do, but still have no idea what you can do. A kinder and more informative thing to do would be to tell you at the moment you walked in the door that the chair and couch are being repaired and are not safe to sit on. Please use the other safe chairs.

Come together as a family and make a list of important household rules such as sit for greetings, lie down on a mat next to the table at meal time or only chew on toys and not human hands.

Everyone agrees to reinforce the same rules consistently in the same way. The more the family works together, the better the chance your dog will have at succeeding in your home.

Remember that each time your dog shows you an unwanted behavior; it’s an opportunity for you to teach him what the house rules are and calmly persist in reinforcing his good behavior with treats, praise and kindness. The secret’s out.

Sandra Kruczek is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer at Total Teamwork Training for more than 25 years and can be contacted at

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