Imagine you are living in a country where you don’t understand the language. One day while you are engaged in an activity someone comes up to you and loudly shouts a word or phrase at you. Chances are you stop whatever you are doing, possibly because you are startled. If no other information is forthcoming you might resume your activity. Maybe they shout again and again until finally you just give up, stop what you are doing, and leave.
Do you have any idea what just happened? Will you know what to do differently next time this happens? Did you learn anything? Welcome to life as a dog.
I hear from frustrated pet owners all the time; “I told him ‘No!’ but he still wouldn’t get off the couch.” “I told him ‘Wait!’ but he still ran out the door.
First of all, dogs don’t speak human. Sure, shouting “no!” sometimes works but only because of the startle effect. And while your dog can’t understand your words he can read your body language, which is usually indicating you are upset with him.
Secondly it is very difficult to teach your dog not to do something. What does not doing something look like to a dog?
What you can, and should do, is to teach your dog an alternative behaviour instead. Find a trainer who can show you how to prompt, shape or lure a replacement behaviour. When your dog understands what it is you want him to do then you can add a verbal command or cue to it.
There are many good alternative behaviours that can be taught to replace those undesirable ones. If your dog likes to jump up then teach him to sit instead. Instead of shouting “Stop!” when he is running out the door teach him to sit or lie down..
The beauty of teaching all these replacement behaviours is that it’s more fun and less frustrating for both of you, and you can reward your dog in a positive way which can only improve and strengthen your relationship.