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Why Staying Consistent Matters

Changing behavior takes time. Think about a habit that you have or had in the past and think about how long it took you to change that habit or how long you’ve been working on changing it. And think about how much more advanced we are than dogs. When we’re trying to change a dog’s behavior it takes time. How long? Every dog and behavior is different so there isn’t a great answer to this question. One way to make it take longer or not happen at all is to be inconsistent. What does being inconsistent mean? Being inconsistent can mean sending mixed messages. One way that we are inconsistent is when we give the thumbs up sometimes and other times we don’t. Sometimes we allow our dogs to jump on guests and other times we’re trying to be strict about not allowing it. Sometimes we feed our dogs from the table and other times we’re not happy when they’re standing there “begging.” The take away for our dogs is that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Often this leads to a dog trying harder to get what has worked in the past to work again. Another way that we are inconsistent is when we are trying many different training methods for short periods of time. For a couple weeks you try ignoring counter surfing. For the next couple of weeks you try yelling. Then the next couple of weeks you try rewarding feet on the floor and so on. What are we actually communicating? It’s likely that we’re giving very mixed signals to our dogs. And as mentioned, this often leads to more of the unwanted behavior. If this sounds like you, you’re certainly not alone. It’s also not too late. These types of situations generally take a lot more patience and a lot more consistency. This means focusing on prevention and management to make sure the unwanted behavior isn’t being rehearsed. It also means a heavy focus on consistently rewarding the behaviors we’d rather happen instead.

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