Training Tip Tuesday: Take Notes Everybody

Mama Sally:  When I train dogs, I’m teaching them appropriate behavior based upon goals their owners and I have agreed upon in advance.  Most of the time, I’m working on correcting naughty behavior which has become a habit for the dog. To correct most naughty behavior, I have to work with breaking patterns of behavior that have become the foundations of those habits.

Living with difficult dogs is often challenging because they generally have many triggers leading to behavior we don’t like, and it isn’t always easy to figure out what is setting them off and when.  When you have a difficult dog to live with, one of the things that can really be very helpful is to take notes of your dog’s behavior.  Dogs often follow patterns of behavior, and contrary to what many owners think, I can often see that pattern, whereas they think their dog is doing random acts.  Sometimes it really is random, but many times, I can spot a pattern if a client can either tell me what’s happening, or I can see it on paper.  This can be hugely helpful for your training professional.

Write down answers to simple questions

Here are some things that you might want to consider as you take notes:

  • Who was involved in the naughty stuff?  Just the dog or were family members involved as well?
  • What is the naughty behavior your dog is doing?  Barking, pacing, licking, housebreaking accidents, etc.
  • What was going on at the time….quiet, noisy, what kind of noise or distraction was present, etc.
  • What was your dog’s energy level at the time….tired or fresh from a nap?  Well exercised or rowdy?
  • When does the behavior happen?
  • If your dog is triggering from another person or dog, how far away were they at the time?
  • Was the other dog calm or barking and pulling his owner on the leash?
  • How did the behavior first start?  When did it originate and how long has it been going on?
  • Why do you think your dog is doing the behavior?
Yard piggies help behavior outside

Asking simple questions like these can help get to the root of an issue, which is really the only way to correct the behavior.  We always need to know why a dog is doing what he’s doing if we want to have any hope at all in fixing it. Why a dog produces behavior is a key to the solution!  Otherwise, it’s like spraying only one room of your house for bugs.  The bugs will simply pick up and move to a new room.  Naughty behavior is often the same way.  If we only address the naughty behavior itself without addressing the root cause, the dog simply learns to produce a different new naughty behavior.  Fixing the root cause stops the behavior altogether, and that’s what all of us want from our dogs!  Here’s what Rugby has to say on the subject!

Rugby James:  When I first commed to live wif the Mama and the Daddy, when I gotted scared or overstimulated, I would bark and run like my wagger was on fire.  The Mama started watching me, and she figured out that any time sumping was too much for me to handle, I coped wif the stress or excitement by barking and running.  I coped wif being scared around food or treats by growling on account of I didn’t feel safe to eat if Uprights was nearby.  I has learned to cope wif scary doggers by barking hard and charging at them to keep them away.  I cope wif the Uprights leaving by barking and trying to keep them from walking out the door.  All of these behaviors is fings what makes me hard to live wif, and all of those behaviors is fings what I learned to do on account of I doesn’t know how to manage the stress, energy and emotion what goes on inside of me.

Rugby’s piggies are never far away from him!

So the Mama has been working to teach me new patterns of ways to behave since I commed to live wif her.  We is having a big funderstorm right now, and instead of just barking and barking and running like crazy in the house, I barks a couple of times, and then I grabs my piggies and gets nearby the Mama and grunts them instead.  That helps me calm down, and it gives me sumping to do what is better than racing frew the house all the time.  So I has learned a new way to cope wif all of the emotion and anxiety what goes off like firecrackers inside of me.  The Mama hasn’t been able to get the anxiety and stress to go away, but she’s teached me better ways to handle fings when I get triggered.

I’m really glad the Mama tries to figure out why I does what I does instead of just getting cross wif me for doing the wacky fings that I do.  Mostly doggers do fings for reasons, so once Uprights can figure out why they is doing fings, and what triggers them to behave in a certain way, then doggers can learn how to do fings differently.




  1. says

    Good advice, Sally. McKenzie's bark triggers are people coming into the house or into our yard, even if she knows them. It is a little better since I am retired and home with her but that's only been for 2 months. My pool guy (she has known him all her life) says he is waiting for her head to just explode and fall off!

    • Sally says

      I completely relate!! See if you can't determine if she's barking to say "Hello! I'm so excited to see you!" Or, she might be barking to say, "Intruder Alert!" And she can possibly be saying, "I don't like you! Back off!" Anxious or fearful barking isn't going to be handled the same way that I would handle nuisance barking. Getting to the root of why she is barking will help you know where to start to get McKenzie's behavior to change. Thanks so very much for reading my blog!!


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