What would you like me to do instead?

Instead of telling your dog no, give your dog another job to do. 




What would you like me to do instead?

What would you like me to do instead? Dennis Fehling CPDT (KA)

When it comes to behaviors that we do not want our dogs to do we as humans always want the behavior to just stop. What if we were to communicate to your dogs that instead of doing what they are doing this is what I would like you to do instead?  With this thought process we are actually doing a lot to teach our dogs that there are other choices they can make instead of the ones that we do not want them making for themselves.  Here is an example: Let’s say that your dog jumps on your guest when they come over, this can be very frustrating to not only you, but can actually teach your guest that coming over to your home is not the best experience in the world. We want our guest to have good experiences when they visit and we also want our dogs to be well behaved. If we set our dogs up to succeed then everyone will be happy and our dogs will learn to practice good behavior instead of bad behaviors. 

Let’s face it, our dogs are not born jumping on our guest they learn to do this by repetition and attention.  When I say repetition I meant that each and every time we have guest over especially when our puppies are very young, who cannot resist petting a jumping puppy because they are so cute at that age. We do not think that we are actually teaching them bad habits until our little puppy is now a 125lb dog that is knocking down granny or small children. It is best to start teaching puppies when they are very young that there are more appropriate ways of getting attention than jumping.  Here are a few tips to show your puppy what you would like them to do instead of jumping or any other behavior that you do not want from them.

1.Tell your guest to not pet a jumping puppy, be mindful that it is not your guest responsibility to train your puppy. If you have one of those friends or family member that will just not listen to what you want then set your puppy up for success by crating or keeping your puppy behind a baby gate or some other kind of barrier with a favorite chew toy. One of my favorite chew toys is the Kong toy. This amazing toy can be filled with all sorts of goodies that will keep your puppy happy.  There are several recipes on the internet for filling Kongs.


2.Communicate with your puppy or older dog what you would like them to do instead of using words like no, off, down, stop it, bad dog.  If you really think about it your puppy or even adult dog really does not understand what any of these words mean and are probably just reading your body language and listening to your tone of voice. Give your puppy or adult dog another job to do instead of the one that they have chosen for themselves.  Let’s say that your puppy or older dog chose something that you do not want them to chew on.  Instead of just taking the forbidden chew toy away show your dog that if they settle on a mat or their bed they get an even better chew toy.  Forbidden objects should be kept away from these puppies or older dogs so they do not get to practice getting better at chewing objects that are forbidden. 


3.Here is a very common behavior that I hear about all the time, puppy nipping and biting.  Ok in a perfect world puppies would never bite but in their world your hands and feet are fair game and are a pretty fun way to get you to act crazy as well as giving them attention.  Ask yourself instead of your puppy biting you what you would like your puppy to learn instead?  Instead of yelling or trying to be a dog by doing the yelp thing, which we as humans will never be able to do as well as other dogs and it could make the biting much worse by making the puppy even more excited. This is a great time to do some training by teaching a trick or even basic manners like sit, stays or leave it. You can also trade your hands for a tug toy or if our puppy is really determined crate your puppy until he/she calms down. Remember that each puppy or adult dog is different but they all learn the same way.  I want you to remember that when showing your puppy the “what you would like them to do instead” you have to be sure that the replacement behavior is just as valuable as the one you want to stop or you will have to rethink your plan. 


4.  Our dogs are constantly gathering information and are also learning what does and does not work for them.  Dog tend to do what works for them and contrary to popular belief they are not the people pleasers we think they are.  When was the last time your dog washed your car or took your place at work? They are very simple creatures that require very little except clear communication of what is expected of them.  We cannot expect them to understand the things that we do after all they are not human.  If you are using punishment to communicate to your puppy or adult dog ask yourself if you have been as clear as possible as to what you expect of them and have you done your best to set them up for success.  Punishment based training can have all sorts of negative fallout between you and your dog while a dog that has been positively trained looks forward to training and in the long run will be a much happier and healthier dog.  One last piece of advice.  Be as clear as possible with your dog and what you expect of them.  Set them up to succeed by arranging their environment for success and last but not least if they are doing something that you want to change ask yourself what that change would look like then train that change.



My goal for these tips is to try and get you to think a little differently when you are communicating with your dog.  The more creative you can get in showing your dog what you want instead of just stopping the behavior, in the long run, you’re actually working much less and your dog will learn more.  Ask yourself if someone you have never met or even a family member or close friend just said stop it when you were doing nothing (at least in your opinion) how would you know what they wanted. If you saw that they were getting to close to the edge of a cliff and you said stop they would probably understand what you wanted them to do.

 Humans process information much differently than animals do. We cannot expect our dogs to always understand what we are saying.  Teaching a dog what we would rather they do instead of what we do not want them to do is a very effective approach to training and also teaches us to be much more creative in our approach to communicating with our dogs.