Setting Goals For Better Behavior

FOCUS ON PETS

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Recently, this column addressed goal-setting and the need to make a plan to change a behavior.

The important part of this is to spend one-on-one time with your dog regularly.

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Bobo listens and forgets about barking when Rose Marie Ronek says "Ssssshhhhh."

Your dog's goal is to please. They have to figure out what we want from them, and getting the dog to pay attention is the first lesson.

Most dogs are well-behaved in the house, but many have annoying behaviors. A behavior is easier to change than an ingrained habit. Make changes by setting goals, creating a plan and having a commitment.

The goal is to elicit the behavior you want. Keep a spiral notebook and pen nearby, and write the goal. Set a time period in which to change the behavior. Write down the steps you will follow every day. At the end of each day, make a note of your progress, what worked and what failed. To stay on track, remind yourself of the benefits.

Barking quickly becomes an annoying habit. This is particularly common with little dogs, and makes an excellent example for setting a goal and following through. Big dogs bark also, but little dogs tend to get away with serious crimes for far too long because they are small, cute and like to snuggle up in your lap.

Dogs bark because we allow them to bark. They do not know that barking is unacceptable because we allow the behavior. Barking is the owner's fault, so we must figure out a way to gently let him know that this particular behavior must change while ensuring our ongoing love.

The goal for the first day, therefore, is to help the dog realize that he barking is not allowed.nd remember, we all learn better, faster and more permanently through success rather than failure. We want to praise good behavior so some small treats handy.

When your dog barks, put your index finger in front of your mouth and let out a, "Ssssshhhhh," sound he can hear. He will look at you, wonder what you're saying, and in the process, he will quit barking. Praise him immediately, say "good, no bark" in a positive voice and give him a treat.

You must do this every single time your dog barks. Remember, no barking will be allowed.

Clicker training works well for a behavior change like barking. When your dog barks, put your finger to your mouth, make the "Ssssshhhhh" sound and when he stops barking to look at you, click and praise. The click means that he has done the right behavior and he will get a treat.

For most dogs, consistent training with the "Ssssshhhhh," the clicker and the treats will be enough to end the barking.

For hardcore barkers, roll up three or four small sections of newspaper and put rubber bands at each end. Have these available around the house, particularly in spots where the dog usually barks, like at the front window or door. Each time the dog barks, put your finger to your mouth, make the "Sssshhhh" sound and pick up a rolled up newspaper. Slap the newspaper against your leg, gently at first, then say, "No Bark."

He should stop barking and look at you. Praise him and give him a treat. The change will not happen immediately. Be patient, but be persistent. Soon, you will notice that when he barks, he will look at you to see your reaction. Be ready with the "Ssssshhhhh."

Clicker training is very useful for changing behaviors and is wonderful fun for teaching amazing tricks. Payson Feed will soon have clickers in stock. Watch for more ways to use them in this column. Keep in mind that a clicker is a training tool. The click means that the dog did the right behavior, and a treat will be forthcoming immediately. Improper use of the clicker will only confuse and frustrate the dog and the trainer.

Karen Pryor used the clicker for training dolphins and transferred the methods to dog training. Her books, and many others, on clicker training are available at the library, at book stores and on the Internet.

Some worry that if they do not allow their dog to bark, he will not warn them in case of some danger. Dogs are natural protectors. If there is a need for serious barking, they will bark.

Changing a habit such as barking takes time and patience. Persistence and consistency are essential. Remember, dogs learn through success, not failure.

Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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