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What is the Easiest Way to Change My Dog's Behavior?



Training and Management

Training plans are composed of a combination of management and training new skills. Both are essential parts of helping your dog reach their goals. They play different roles but neither is better, or more important, than the other.


Management is when you make a change to the environment to prevent the dog from engaging in or displaying a specific behavior. Management removes the opportunity for the dog to rehearse an undesired behavior.

  • Does not teach a new skill, nor change an existing behavior or emotions

  • Allows the dog to avoid an over threshold exposure to trigger

  • Prevents acute stress from becoming chronic stress by allowing the dog to return to decompress and their arousal levels to return to baseline

  • Maintains safety for the dog, its family, and the community

  • Prevents sensitization

  • Once management is in place changes in behavior are pretty immediate


Training is the act of teaching your dog new skills and changing their emotional responses. Training can be teaching operant responses aka cues (commands), desensitization, and/or counterconditioning. When training your dog, these are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Active training is required

  • You and your dog progress step by step

  • We typically manipulate the intensity of a stimulus to help the dog learn gradually

  • Need low arousal levels

  • Needs to be done properly, one step at a time, or sensitization will happen and the behavior will get worse instead of better

  • Want to focus on both teaching a new behavior and creating a positive conditioned emotional response



Teaching Your Dog a New Behavior

Behavior = you perform a cue, and your dog does something in response.


Distractions = anything that catches your dog’s attention, can be good or bad, things that cause fear/anxiety/impulsivity, or excitement.


Reward all instances of the target behavior, do not stop or decrease treats just because your dog seems to understand the behavior in a specific context.


The behavior is not fully learned until step 5 has been completed.

  1. Teach

  • Teach your dog a specific behavior. Achieve fluency (100% response rate) in an area without any distractions

  1. Practice

  • Practice that behavior in progressively more distracting situations, but the level of distractions should be controlled

  1. Generalize

  • Use the new behavior (cue and response) in real life situations that are under threshold (not so distracting that your dog cannot focus)

  1. Proof

  • Gradually begin using the new behavior in real life situations with increasing intensities (distractions, distances, durations)

  1. Use in real-life situations

  • Part 1: Allow the dog to become aware of the stimulus before you cue and reward the behavior

  • Part 2: Allow your dog to become aware of the stimulus, do NOT cue the behavior, wait for the dog to perform the behavior, then reward

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