• Lisa Mullinax, CDBC


Is your dog "supposed to" stay out of the kitchen when you're cooking? Then why is he underfoot? Because he's stubborn? Because defying you is his first move toward total world domination? Or, maybe, he just knows that when you cook, there is a steady stream of goodies falling to the floor. I've seen plenty of dogs that owners tell me "should" stay on their bed when guests arrive. And yet, as soon as I enter, the dog runs to the door and jumps on me. We can believe "should" and "supposed to" all we want, but they don't change what IS. Behavior IS. It is valuable information that tells us what we need to know about our dog in that moment. If the dog doesn't stay in their bed and jumps on visitors, what that tells us is that the dog's training is incomplete. Maybe the dog is consistent when the owners practice opening the door during training, but that the behavior falls apart when the doorbell rings. Which tells us that the dog needs more practice using the doorbell. If you don't like the behavior your dog is giving you, it means you need to ask the following questions: 1. In what situations/environments does this behavior occur? Remember, all behavior has a trigger (antecedent). It could be the sight, sound, action, or smell of something in the environment. Unwanted behavior around guests could have many different triggers. It could be the sound of a car door, the sight of a person walking up the step, or the action of stepping into the living room or even reaching to pet the dog. Once we determine the trigger, we can predict the behavior, rather than react after the fact. 2. Is there anything I could have done to prevent my dog from practicing this behavior? In the case of guests, the dog can go outside, behind a gate, or be tethered to prevent access to the front door. By preventing the behavior, we can reduce opportunities for reinforcement of unwanted behavior. 3. What would I like my dog to do instead of this behavior? This is the "should" behavior. The behavior you thought your dog was going to do. In the case of guests, it's staying on a bed. Now we know what to train and reinforce. Should and supposed to are nothing but wishes. We wish our dog would stay out of the kitchen while we cook. We wish they would stay on their bed when guests enter. Wishes don't create better behaved dogs (or humans, for that matter). If you catch yourself saying that your dog "should" do something he's not, correct yourself. Correct your training plan.