Believe it or not, many of you are inadvertently rewarding the very behaviors that you can’t stand. Before you object and assure me that you never reward any bad behavior from your poochy pal, let me say one thing that I want you to think about. State of mind is more important than behavior
Let me say that again: state of mind is more important than behavior. Most people are so consumed with what their dog is doing that they forget to take note of his state of mind while he’s doing everything. Even dog trainers make this big mistake. I’ve seen many of my colleagues attempt to correct bad behavior by teaching an alternate preferred behavior, which although is a very useful way to train your dog, its only effective if you also address the dog’s state of mind
A common example is a dog that is super excited and out of control around his food bowl. To try to control this, you may make your dog sit and wait for you to release him before he can have his meal. That sounds good, right? It is, if your dog’s state of mind is calm, but if it’s not you’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. If your dog is sitting, waiting to be released but is still in an excited (for some dogs, obsessive) state of mind and you release him to the food, you are rewarding that unstable state of mind. Sure, you may have temporarily stopped his manic behavior around food when he sat but you’ve really done nothing to affect his long term behavior
A dog’s state of mind is MUCH more important than what he is physically doing because his state of mind dictates his actions. Personally, I don’t care if the dog sits, goes down or stands on his head, as long as he is in a nice calm, relaxed state of mind. A sit or down may help you get him calmer quicker but when used without attention to the state of mind it’s useless
The reason that state of mind is so important is that a calm dog is a good dog. Dogs in anything but a calm state of mind tend to make some dopey decisions. But it’s not their fault – they’re merely victims of their state of mind
Whenever your dog gets a reward (as seen by him, which you may not think is a reward – like eye contact to a puppy) pay close attention to his state of mind. Is it a state mind that you like and want again? When you are ready to go out the door for a walk, is he calm? When you come home and greet him, is he calm? When he gets any treats, does he take them politely and calmly
Go through your day to day life with your dog and really notice his state of mind at each moment of reward. Be honest with yourself and see if you are indeed encouraging calm behavior or just repeatedly rewarding excitement and instability. Then, make a conscious effort to wait until you have a calm dog before you give out any of those great things in your dog’s life.