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  1. A lot of the questions clients ask me are to do with stopping unwanted behaviour. There are 
    two ways to change behaviour in dogs –

    Punishment: something that decreases the likelihood of unwanted behaviour being repeated
    due to an unpleasant consequence.

    Reinforcement: increasing the likelihood of good behaviour being repeated due to a nice
    outcome.

    Punishment can often be seen to have quicker results but it also comes with a number of
    risks. First we need to look at what is punishing to a dog. Punishments can range from ignoring or
    taking away attention to the use of a shock collar. What do we mean by aversive punishment?
    It is simply something that causes avoidance of a behaviour through the use of unpleasant
    stimuli. So in this sense even ignoring or timing out your dog is unpleasant, in particular with
    dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. The impact of the aversive is dependant on the dog
    it is being applied to and this in itself can cause unexpected consequences. Here are some
    examples of aversive punishments: sharp lead corrections hitting or kicking electric shock collar submissive down or alpha roll shouting threatening stares or growls use of water sprays or air cans grabbing by the scruff or jowls and shaking. I am sure we can all see why these methods would discourage a dog from performing a
    behaviour. Think of having these techniques applied to you because you had misunderstood
    or done something that somebody else didn't like? In this regard using aversive punishment
    can be very effecting in stopping unwanted behaviour but it can also have a great deal of
    side effects and even effect a dogs welfare. The punishment may not always be consistent or start to become bearable for the dog in
    order for him to get what he wants – A dog that still pulls on the leash to get to exciting smells
    even when the owner performs leash corrections. Aggressive methods, things that cause pain and/or fear encourage an aggressive or
    defensive reaction from a dog. A dog may make an unwanted, negative association with the stimuli surrounding the
    correction or just learn to shut down. Aversive methods can be reinforcing to the person applying them. Aversive can create anxiety and fear in dogs and they can generalize this to similar stimuli –
    eg shake cans and loud noises. Can interfere with a dogs ability to learn as the dog shuts down, this will also impact on the
    owners relationship with the dog. The defensive behaviour created by aversive method is difficult to reverse as it works for the
    dog. Snapping at something it is fearful of or that might cause it pain will make it go away. Causes stress in dogs. A minimal level of stress in dogs or humans is useful for learning but
    when this is increased as with the desire to avoid the punishment it can become a big barrier
    to learning. When an unwanted behaviour is suppressed through punishment, a dog will find a new way
    to fill this void, and this may well be with another undesirable behaviour. Eg a dog is punished
    for digging in the garden. He is still bored. So he starts to chew things instead. Suppressing behaviours that are there as a warning or out of a reaction to something.
    Barking due to a fear reaction to other dogs for example, may well cause a dog to escalate
    the behaviour as the emotion behind the reaction is still present. Rewarding a positive alternative carries much less of a risk and is much more likely to
    encourage a cooperative leaning experience for dog and owner.

    Kerry Walker - Behaviour Counsellor
     
  2. Teaching your puppy what is and isn't appropriate behaviour is not always 
    easy. With the use of timeouts the process can be made easier. The way in which dogs learn is through association and repetition.
    Association - associations are made every single day and are what shape
    the behaviour of your four legged friend in different situations. A nice example of an association being developed is the sit command.
    Your dog will make the association that if they pop their bum onto the
    floor, you say that funny word and then give them cuddles or a treat.
    This is a nice positive association to the action and the word being said
    along with it. Another example could be your dog barking for attention. Your dog may
    well sit in front of you and bark when bored, hopefully you will respond
    to this by ignoring the behaviour, as your dog received nothing in return
    when barking, they will make the association that barking doesn't get
    anything. Repetition - by repeating the behaviours or receiving the same response
    tied to these associations, your dog will learn whether the behaviour is
    worth performing again or not. The more they do something the more it is reinforced. For example, the
    more they hear the word 'sit' as their bum is on the ground, the stronger
    the association that these two things are linked will be made. So how does this fit in with the timeout technique? As most naughty behaviours are performed in order to get attention, we
    need to make sure that these behaviours are associated with getting no
    attention or the loss of that attention. Timeouts are basically the 'naughty step'. With the use of a 'trail line'
    you should walk your puppy to a doorway such as the kitchen or hallway
    and put them on the other side. Once on the other side they should remain
    there for 5-10 seconds, this will only be made longer if they are barking,
    crying or scratching on the other side of the door, in which case we need
    to wait until they are calm before letting them in. This is to prevent
    them learning that these behaviours make the door open again. Timeouts need to happen as soon as the naughty behaviour occurs. We reward
    the good, ignore the bad and if it is too much to ignore then we use
    timeouts. With the repetition of timeouts, your dog will associate that naughty
    behaviour with losing out on the attention and therefore this will reduce
    the amount they choose to perform the behaviour to begin with. For anymore information or troubleshooting on this technique, please
    contact us.

    George Rooke - Head Behaviour Counsellor