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Why Does My Dog Perform Certain Behaviors Especially Ones that I Dislike?

As a professional dog trainer with Four Legged Scholars LLC, Dog Training, Salt Lake City we wanted to write a post that many Salt Lake City dog training clients ask about.  Why does my dog perform a certain behavior?  The answer is actually really simple, your dog will perform behaviors that are reinforced.  If your dog is receiving any type of pay-off from performing a behavior, that particular behavior will happen more often.  The behavior can be reinforced in one of the following ways listed below.

1.) You could be reinforcing the behavior.  For example, if your dog jumps on you and you give your dog attention then the jumping can increase in frequency.  The attention can come from looking at your dog, talking to your dog, yelling at your dog, etc.  An obedient dog has received some pay- off for performing the good “settle” behavior.

2.) Another person is reinforcing the behavior.  For example when you walk your dog he doesn’t pull on the leash because you stop moving forward when your dog pulls on the leash.  When your pet sitter walks your dog, she walks forward when your dog pulls on the leash.  As a result, your dog pulls with her because the pulling has been reinforced by her.  Your dog then performs better on leash obedience with you than with the sitter.

3.) Your dog receives reinforcement from an external stimulus.  If your dog jumps on the counter in the kitchen, this behavior could be reinforced from your dog eating food off of the counter.  Another example is your dog barks when a stranger passes his house.  The stranger keeps walking and eventually the stranger is off your dog’s territory.  As a result, the barking was reinforced.  By changing your dog’s consequences you can create more obedience.

4.) Your dog enjoys the activity or the dog receives intrinsic reinforcement.  When your dog chews on the sofa he is being reinforced by the chemicals that are being produced in his body that make the activity feel fun for him.  As a result, he continues to chew on the sofa and his behavior appears to be not obedient.

The best way to change any dogs behavior is to change the consequence.  If your dog receives a different consequence you can change the frequency of the behavior to happen more frequently or less frequently.  For specific support we recommend that you receive professional dog training.  Salt Lake City has many positive reinforcement dog training options.


Johanna Teresi, Professional Trainer and Owner of Four Legged Scholars LLC, Dog Training, Salt Lake City

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