7-Step Formula to Easily Change Unwanted Dog Behavior
Over the years, I’ve worked with dogs with all sorts of issues. From obsessively chasing flies and charging towards other dogs to snapping at the postman or refusing to come when called…
I’ve seen it all and throughout these experiences, I’ve noticed there are certain key steps that I follow every time I begin the training stage with a dog. They’re like stepping stones. There’s a start point and then specific steps that take us to the place that we want to end up.
These simple but powerful stages are what I’ve based my 7-Step Dog Training Formula on–a routine that has become an important part of many of my consultations.
Time and time again, this formula has proven to be a successful way to help dogs calm down while shaping behavior.
If there is a dog that you’re having a difficult time training, I have great news for you.
Today, I’m going to be sharing my 7-step formula so you too will have success while working with your dog at home or out in public.
Follow these 7 key steps and you’ll have a much easier time putting an end to your dog’s unwanted behaviors.
Step 1 – Find the Starting Point
The hardest part of dog training is often figuring out how to get started. In fact, that’s a big reason why so many people struggle to curb their pet’s destructive behaviors.
For me, I’ve discovered that the most effective starting point is calming your dog and setting up the easiest situation for him to relax. It’s like anything in life…start on the lowest setting.
Until your dog is in a calm head space, there’s not much you can do to help inspire him to change his behavior.
So, to complete this first step, you may need to remove your dog from whatever factor (bike on the street or kids playing in the yard) that’s causing him to get upset.
There are many different ways you can do this including:
- Blocking your dog’s view by putting yourself in front of the dog.
- Moving your dog in front of a parked car or tree if you’re outside.
- Bringing your dog inside to get away from the irritant.
- Moving to the back of the house where the sound is less obvious.
- Moving further away from the factor(you may have to start on the other side of the park).
Once you’ve removed your dog from whatever situation is causing him stress, you can use a technique that I call the Calm Freeze to relax your dog.
Simply hold your dog under the collar and sit with him until he begins to relax.
It’s important that you ignore your dog–no talking, petting, or eye contact. Just transfer your calm energy, and once your dog relaxes, let go of him and move to step 2.
It may take a few tries before your dog completely relaxes. That’s ok…repeat the Calm Freeze until your dog has settled down.
Step 2 – Once Calm, Ask Your Dog for a New Behavior
Once you’ve calmed your dog down, you may ask her for the behavior you’re looking for.
For example: If your dog’s chasing flies in the front room, getting her to calm down in the back room and then asking her to relax and lie down would be a great goal.
This step often entails replacing a dog’s old behavior (running around and chasing flies) with a new one (lying down calmly).
So, to start you may need to involve distractions such as treats, a ball, pats, or cuddles just to distract your dog’s mind before she begins to relax totally on her own.
It’s even possible that in order to maintain control of the situation, you’ll have to use some sort of lead since your dog is not able to listen and respond through self-control yet.
This is ok.
Do whatever you need to do in order to relax your dog and get her focused on a new behavior, and then see if she will just relax on her own.
Treats and some simple sit down and stay commands can often work wonders.
Step 3 – Repeat Step 2 Many Times
Repeat step 2–removing your dog from a situation and calming him by redirecting him into a new behavior–until you get the dog behavior you desire.
Be sure to keep this process simple and don’t rush things.
When you repeat step #2, you’re creating a new pathway in your dog’s brain. The more time you spend creating this new pathway, the faster your dog’s brain will understand “this is the normal way.”
Eventually, it will become his natural behavior.
Step 4 – Finish on a High
Before you finish the exercise from step #3 with your dog, it’s important to ensure you end on a high or positive note.
Here’s an example of ending on a high…
You remove Sparky from the front room where she is chasing flies into the back room. When you take her to the back room, she lies down on command and relaxes.
The energy you finish the exercise with is a lasting memory for your dog. You want this his memory to be the new calm behavior.
This step is important, so don’t forget it.
Step 5 – Repeat Behavior Again Later That Day/Next Day
Repetition is the mother of all skills. It’s especially true when you’re working to shape dog behavior patterns.
If you finished on a high the day before, it shouldn’t be too tricky for your dog to pick up where she left off.
Before you ask your dog to repeat the behavior, make sure you go back to step #1 and find the calm starting point.
Here’s an extra dog training tip…
The shorter the time between repetitions, the more likely you’ll find success. It’s also important to ensure the factors (like bringing your dog to the same room, asking her for the same command, etc.) stay the same from day to day.
If you change too many factors while training, your dog might get confused. This makes it harder on your dog to recall how she should behave in that specific situation.
Here’s a good example to paint a picture of what I’m saying…
Let’s pretend every time your dog walks past people he gets excited and anxious.
To help fix this problem, you did an exercise with your dog early on a Sunday morning outside a school when nobody is around.
Then, the next day, you take your dog on a walk to the exact same school, but now it’s at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning and kids are everywhere.
Too many factors in the environment have changed. Because there is so much change, your dog is going to have a much harder time remembering what you worked on the day before.
Step 6 – Change One Variable and Make It a Tiny Bit Harder
Eventually, you’re going to have to change up the variables in your dog’s environment to teach him how to appropriately act in various types of settings.
Once your dog is responding well in the controlled environment you created (walking him Sunday morning outdoors when no one is around), you can start changing the variables.
Please be cautious though.
You must do this very slowly. And whatever you do, don’t rush it!
Let’s go back to the dog-walking example.
If you decide to take your dog (who gets excited and anxious when walking around people) out for a stroll on a day that school is in session and kids are running around, start by walking your dog on the opposite side of the street.
This allows your dog to see what’s going on, without being too close to all of the excitement.
Please recognize that when you change variables and make things harder for your dog, he may behave differently.
Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you change different variables slowly while maintaining your dog’s calm mental state.
Step 7 – If Your Dog Becomes Stressed, Go Back to Step 1
If your dog is stressing out over the variable changes you are making, you simply need to go back to step #1, the place where you can get your dog to calm down.
After a while, your dog will learn to calm down quicker, allowing you to make it through the remaining steps more successfully.
The chances are that just as in life, some days you will be surprised at what happens…it may be what you hoped for and other times it may not. Just don’t look too much into it, learn from it and get back on the horse!
Keep at it and I know you’ll be able to help shape your dog’s behavior in a positive way over time!
If you’re interested in checking out more of my dog training tips, I encourage you to request access to my FREE video series, The Easy Way To An Obedient Dog…
~Doggy Dan 🙂