I came across a show called “Bad Dog” on Animal Planet recently. The title was intriguing, so I gave the show a try. It was exactly as represented.
One segment featured a dog that liked to chase golf balls. He would find a golf ball and toss it down the steps. He liked to do this at night which caused sleep problems for his owner. They actually filmed the dog doing this not once, not twice, but 36 times. The owner expressed a great deal of frustration over this and didn’t know what to do. I think it is pretty clear – pick up the golf balls!
Another segment featured a dog who was guarding a throw rug. The owner’s solution was to pull the dog on the rug so that she didn’t have to get off it. Clearly, these owners have never heard of “rewarding good behaviors”.
It is not unlike a dog who counter surfs. If your dog can get to the top of a counter and finds something good – like chicken or a loaf of bread, the behavior will continue because it is rewarding. Although it may seem like a cop out because there is no “training” involved, the best way to deal with the situation is management – keep stuff off the counters. If your dog is not rewarded for the behavior (i.e. he doesn’t find anything good on the counters), he will stop doing it. This won’t happen overnight, so be patient.
One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to set your dog up to practice the behaviors. The more a dog does something, the harder it is to get him to stop. Therefore, remember the second part of the “reward good behaviors” mantra, which is to “ignore behaviors you don’t want”. There is no need to show people your dog counter surfs – they will believe you, unless you are on Animal Planet.