I’m often asked how to “correct” a dog’s behavior. The other day I met a gentleman who was having some behavior problems with his Pit Bull. The dog would play and play, then suddenly get aggressive. The man yelled at his dog, the dog would stop, the man would then continue to yell at the dog, then walk away in disgust. The simple thing to remember is that the dog does not understand English (or any other language for that matter).
The most common mistake I see people make in trying to train their dogs is frustration and anger directed at the dog. Even though the dog does not understand the words, they do “feel the vibe.” Whether you believe it or not, dogs have a sixth sense that some, actually most, humans can not understand. When you are frustrated it gives off almost the same vibe to your dog as fear. The dog will relate to this. If your dog is doing something wrong, he needs to be corrected instantly, not when he is done. A correction is a correction, not a conversation. If your dog jumps and you correct him when he’s not jumping you are creating a confusion for the dog. Even correcting him verbally can often be confusing for the dog unless it is a short word. The correction must come at the exact time as the violation. If he jumps, he needs to be corrected in mid jump. If he snaps, it must be corrected when he is snapping. Once the dog is done, he has forgotten and you can not expect to “explain” to him that he “did” something wrong. The dog understands what he is doing, not necessarily what he did.
Expecting your dog to understand what he did wrong is placing a human emotion / understanding onto the dog, and this is very unfair. If you don’t catch your dog in the act, don’t correct him. If you catch him and strive to correct him, make it something he understands. If he jumps on the sofa, push him off as he lands on the sofa, not once he’s settled down. The correction has to be immediate. If he jumps up on you, and your dog is bigger than 20 lbs or so, it is something that you should work on correcting. The reason I say this is because a dog that jumps is a danger around children and old people. Do not reprimand the dog for jumping, but rather praise him when he doesn’t jump. Corrections should be non verbal, praise should be verbal. Correcting a dog who jumps on people is something that should be explained and demonstrated by a professional trainer so as not to build bad habits in the dog.