There are times when you know your dog is going to do something that you don’t want. You just know it. You can almost see the dog thinking – ‘should I or shouldn’t I do this’. You can borrow a page from what the mother-dog does with her litter. Instead of a low growl, you can say something like ‘ack’, ‘don’t', or some consistent sound that encourages the dog to rethink the decision. A mother-dog would issue a low growl that is enough to persuade pup to think about what it is about to do.
The reason that “no” is inappropriate is that the dog has not done anything wrong – yet. It is thinking about it. You know your dog well enough to read its body language. As an example, just think of times when the dog spots a squirrel. The dog’s eyes focus; the set of the body changes; the ears are up; the tail is pointed – and you just know that the dog is thinking of bolting and giving that squirrel a good chase and a good scare. This is when you want to interrupt the dog with an “ack”. It just reminds the dog that this is something that you don’t want to see happen. This is just another small behaviour that establishes you as the leader of this small pack.
Using “ack” also allows you to guard the “no” command. You do not want to use “no” indiscriminately. You want to save it as something that the dog knows is serious.
And again, there is nothing magical in the word itself. Just select a word that comes to mind readily. The dog will learn to attend to the word. It is just a sound to disrupt the dog’s focus and remind the dog that you know what it is thinking – and you disapprove. When your dog makes a good decision and doesn’t decide to cause problems, praise. Positively reinforce the dog for not doing something. Praise lavishly for good decision making. The dog made a great choice and you need to acknowledge that it did well.
“Ack” is a very handy preventative tool. Of course, you can follow mother-dog’s example and issue a low growl at your dog. You just might receive some strange looks when you do so on your walk through the park.
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[tags]dogs, dog training, voice commands, bad behaviour, praise, pack leadership, catherine forsythe[/tags]