Springing into Action: Passive vs Active Dog Training

Happy first day of spring! Here at the shelter warm air is wafting through the kennels and the critters are all looking forward to tomorrow–when our doors open up and visitors can come play with them!

One of OCHS’s goals is not only to find new homes for animals, but also to help animals stay in their homes. With that in mind, we’ve been working on new material for our website, which will address a number of common behavioral issues.

Until then, we’ll be posting on the nuts and bolts of dog training and cat behavior! Today’s topic: active vs. passive training.

People often think of dog training as a class you go to–or a period of time you set aside in the day to specifically work with your dog. In reality, every time we interact with our pets we are training them.

To get an idea of how you’ve passively trained your dog follow these steps:

First, notice how your dog behaves. What things does your dog do that you don’t like? Does she bolt through the door, beg for food, or jump on you? How about the things that you do like–maybe she walks nicely on the leash, lies quietly on the couch during the day, sleeps in her own dog bed instead of hogging your bed, or waits to eat her dinner until you ask her to. Good or bad, you’ve probably trained her to do it with your own actions!

Second, notice how you behave. Do you feed her scraps off the table every once in awhile, and then get annoyed when she barks for food at other times? Do you let her pull you out the door? Do you pet her when she lies in her own dog bed instead of on your bed? How do you act when she jumps on you? The best dog trainers know how to increase the behaviors they do like, and decrease the things they don’t like by changing their own actions.

Third, change your own behavior. If you don’t want her to beg, make sure she never gets food from the table–it might take a little while for her to catch on, but eventually she’ll decide it isn’t worth the effort to beg. When she jumps on you, instead of giving her attention (even negative attention may make her jump more), just turn around and ignore her until she has all four paws on the floor. Soon she’ll learn that she gets more love if she doesn’t jump. If you really like how she lies on the couch instead of barking at passersby, start to give her attention and treats every time you notice her lying on the couch–she’ll probably start doing it even more!

All of this falls into the arena of passive dog training–it’s just changing the way you interact with your dog in daily life to increase good behavior and decrease bad behavior. While going to classes and having structured training sessions can be an awesome step toward having a well-behaved dog, changing how you act in daily life is the best thing you can do to have a happy, healthy, polite pup.

Have a question about dog training or behavior? Leave a comment or email Sarah at outreach@ochsms.org.