The world needs more ACRONYMS!!!
Let's talk about pulling on leash as an example of a behaviour you may not like. How can you address it... STOP!
S - Stop rehearsal.
The best way to make a behaviour solid is to rehearse it. This is true of both behaviours we want (like walking politely) and behaviours we don't want (like pulling). Rehearsal predicts behaviour!
The first thing you need to do to change something you don't like is prevent your dog from rehearsing that 'thing'. The more your dog pulls, the more pulling becomes the norm and the habit. In the example of pulling, this might mean avoiding situations where pulling occurs (not always realistic) or using a training collar - we like the Gentle Leader that will manage the pulling during this phase.
T - Train the RIGHT behaviour.
This is the key to replacing the wrong behaviour. It's not enough to simply say, don't pull - we need to replace pulling with a more desirable option. Here at McCanns, we train 2 options for walking. Let's go means walk at my side and maintain a loose leash. Leash respect means maintain a loose leash. Both are GREAT options to replace pulling and all bases are generally covered by one or the other. Once you've trained an alternative behaviour, you can use it to continue to address pulling.
O - One Challenge at a Time.
Now start to add challenges! Your first lessons of new behaviour should be done without competing motivators - meaning, there shouldn't be distractions that might throw your dog off their game just yet! Once they know how to walk nicely in a 'white room', it's time to add challenges that they'll face in the real world. Add one thing at a time so as not to over face the dog. You'll need to wean away from food lures, add distractions and change environment. Focus on one challenge at a time so you can build on success
P - Proof
This is my favourite part!
This is the part where we get to cement our dog's understanding of their new skill. Proofing is setting up challenges to test where your dog's understanding sits.
In the example of pulling, you might challenge your dog with environmental distractions. Just walk towards something smelly out in the real world! Set up proofing drills with toys and food distractions in your yard or at the park. Reinforcing with HIGH value rewards AFTER your dog has made the RIGHT choice will go a long way to solidifying this skill.
As always, happy training!