Tips for Canine Behavior Modification at Home

Canine behavior modification is useful for a wide variety of dog behaviors from simple jumping to complex aggression. Behavior modification can easily be done at home with a little bit of consistency and creativity.

Alternate Behaviors

The most important part of a successful canine behavior modification plan is deciding on an alternate behavior to replace the undesirable behavior. For example, your dog is jumping on guests, and you would like him to sit instead. It's important to replace the undesirable behavior with another, rather than thinking, "He jumps, and I would like him not to."

Even with aggression cases, alternate behaviors are available. For example, if your dog lunges and barks at other dogs, teach him to look at you when he sees another dog instead. Behavior modification plans must have a clear goal to be successful.

Once you have decided on the alternate behavior, teach it in a calm setting that doesn't mimic the setting that makes your dog anxious or excited. For example, if you want your dog to sit instead of jump on guests, teach him to sit when you have no guests.

Teach the behavior so well that there is no room for mistakes. Once you have taught him to sit in the living room, teach him in the bedroom, dining room, by the door, in the front yard and at the park. Teach when your dog is near other dogs and when children are running around. If there is ever a situation where your dog can't sit, the environment is too difficult. Move farther from those distractions and try again. Once you have practiced at a greater distance, you can gradually move closer.

Using Rewards

For a dog to associate the reward with the behavior, behavior modification specialists say it must come within 1.3 seconds. At the very least, make sure you praise your dog within that time. You can follow with a treat, toy or petting after that.

Make sure the reward you use is rewarding to your dog. If your dog doesn't like his treat, that's not a reward. If he hates to be petted on his head, that's not rewarding. Use the very best rewards for the most difficult behaviors and moderate rewards for easy behaviors.

Preventing Bad Behavior

While teaching your dog an alternate behavior, prevent him from practicing the bad behavior. Thus, if you have guests before your dog is trained, put him in another room if you can't control him.

When you decide to start having him sit for your guests, put him on leash. Invite your guests in while holding your dog back. Ask him to sit. If he does, he can get pets from the guests. If not, he gets ignored. When he finally calms enough to sit, he gets his reward.

Practice this until your dog is automatically sitting. Then you can remove the leash from training.

To have a successful canine behavior modification plan, you need to prevent your dog from practicing the bad behavior, teach him an alternate behavior and reward all good behaviors. If you're consistent, the plan will work in no time.