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Pay Attention to What You Want – Not What You Don’t!

Posted by Katya on February 13th, 2012

Too often, we pay attention to our pets when they’re exhibiting the behavior we don’t want them to do.  It’s important to keep in mind that any time you look at, talk to, or touch your pet — meaning any time you pay attention! — you are reinforcing the behavior they’re participating in at that very moment.  So do you let your pet know when he or she is doing what you do want?  It is more common for us to interact when our pets are bugging us.  For example, when your dog is jumping up on you like the pups in the photo — a behavior most of us don’t condone –  by saying “no” or pushing her down, you are only giving your pup words, eye contact, and attention when she’s jumping!  So you’re actually reinforcing the jumping.

Try instead to remove all interaction with her when the jumping is taking place.  Turn your back and ignore the behavior.  The moment your pooch sits down and stops jumping on you, that’s the moment to give her attention and let her know that is the behavior you like.  Otherwise, you’ll just be teaching her that by jumping up on you she gets you to focus on her.

It’s easy for us to blame our pets; they don’t speak our language and it can get frustrating!  But in truth, any behavior your pet exhibits, even the ones you don’t like, are likely present because they have been reinforced unknowingly by you.  This new year, let’s try to be more mindful of how we communicate with our animals and what behavior we’re reinforcing.  Catch your pets doing the right thing!  When your furry friends are resting calmly on their dog beds, remember to give them praise and let them know that is exactly the behavior you enjoy.

In short: focus on what you want, not on what you don’t.  In the end our relationship with our animals will only get better for it, and you’ll both enjoy each other’s company a little more!

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