These Common Practices Could be Stressing out Your Dog
1. Saying “No” Multiple Times
When your dog does something wrong, it is human instinct to want to correct them. However, when you use the word “no” too much without any follow up, it can be confusing and stressful to the dog. Any and all correction should be followed by either redirecting the dog to a new behaviour or teaching them a new command.
2. Cuddle your dog and say “it’s okay” when they are afraid
This is a purely human reaction to a nervous dog. The dog does not read “it’s okay ” as a cue to calm down, but rather as it’s OKAY to be stressed about the situation they are in. For example, if a dog is stressed meeting new people and your reaction is to pick them up or cuddle them while they are hiding behind you, the dog will start to think that being stressed around new people is an okay reaction because your comfort is read as reinforcement for their behaviour. A better reaction would be to teach the dog how to handle the stress of strangers by creating a positive association with people. Like having a stranger offer your dog treats, or if they are too afraid, offering treats yourself when your dog sees strangers.
3. Telling a dog “Off” or “Down” when they jump up on you.
To an excited dog, ANY reaction is a positive reaction. Yelling “off” or “down” to an excited dog only serves to make them more excited and more jumpy. The best reaction is NO reaction. Simply turn and walk away or hold the collar and quietly move your dog off you and ask them for a sit.
4. Repeating Commands
As a trainer, this is something I encounter regularly. An owner asks the dog to sit, for example, and then repeats it 3 or 4 more times. This teaches your dog that you are willing to repeat yourself so most dogs are going to wait for just that. This leads to a delayed response from a dog who definitely knows the command but just chooses not to listen to it the first time. In certain situations, like if your dog is running away from you, you need to have them respond the FIRST time you call them or they may get into harm’s way. Choose to use a hand signal or body language or simply wait out the dog until they give you the desired response while training all commands.. If you must repeat yourself once, do it in a firmer tone of voice.