I’m by no means a dog trainer. A meeting with my dogs will surely attest to this fact. However, one of the biggest “wins” I’ve had with my dogs lately is eliminating the words “no” or “stop,” and replacing them with what I DO want the dogs to do. In dog training circles, this is called redirecting, and I find it a lil bit brilliant. (I’m pretty sure it would also work on kids and/or spouses, but don’t quote me on that. Or do quote me, and you’re welcome.)
Here’s how I use redirecting
In the past, if I said “no” or “stop” when my dogs did something undesirable, I think there wasn’t a complete understanding from them, evidenced by the fact that sometimes I got a blank stare. The dogs sort of looked at me like (and I’m paraphrasing them here) “if I can’t do this, then what am I supposed to be doing?”
Sometimes I tried to distract the dogs with some sort of other words or a toy, but that was short lived because it was only a temporary distraction. Don’t get me wrong, distractions work well on a short term basis, in my opinion, as when you see something coming that will set off your dog and you divert their gaze so they don’t see it as well. That would be a temporary distraction. But distracting and redirecting are not necessarily the same thing.
One example of redirecting, and I know this is minor in the scheme of things, but every morning (every damn morning) when I’d go to make the bed, two eager dogs would jump up and want to be in the middle of things. Bouncing around, tunneling under the covers, you get the picture. And while at age 14 I trained to be a candy striper (not stripper) in a hospital, and learned to make a bed with a person IN the bed, that is not a free pass for dogs wanting to party. Every morning (every damn morning) when my dogs would jump on the bed as I’m making it, I’d tell them “off,” and after a bit, sometimes with me repeating the command, they’d eventually get off the bed and let me make the bed. Now, as a new rule, when I go back in the bedroom in the morning I tell them to “go to chair” (a comfy chair in the bedroom, as pictured) while I make the bed. Less than a week later, one morning I was in the bedroom making the bed with not a dog in sight. All of a sudden I hear one of my girls coming down the hallway – it’s Maddie. Maddie sees me making the bed and instantly goes to the chair and has sort of a proud look on her face (or I dunno, maybe it was gas). Win! She quickly learned that going to the chair was a behavior allowable while playing trampoline on the bed while I’m trying to make the bed is not.
While this is only a minor win in the things my dogs seriously need behavioral work on, I’ll take it. I think having a redirect that is positive (to both me and the dogs!) is key. Now I need a good redirect for when the UPS man arrives. Similar to the image below from SnarkEcards, my dogs think their world is coming to an end if someone has the gall to knock on the door. I’ve got my work cut out for me, folks!