Mark's Dog Blog

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

When we get a new puppy, we should never wait until unwanted behaviours such as jumping or overly excited behaviour has been learnt, before we then decide now that the dog is too big or out of control, we need to stop the behaviour. Its much easier and less stressful on a young dog if we set the rules from day one, at 8 weeks. Of course, it is much better to teach a dog appropriate behaviours before the pup learns the inappropriate behaviours.

The main reason young dogs learn to be jumpers, is because we make too much of a fuss of them the moment we get home, or we let them out of their crate, or any time we have initial contact with with them. What happens due to classical conditioning, is we create triggers that switches the dogs brain in to an overly anxious or excitable state whenever the dog hears our or someone else's approach. When a dog becomes overly anxious they also become very demanding and assertive, which can also lead to other anxiety related and assertive type behavioural issues, which I will touch on later in another article.

Let us look at how this classical conditioning works.

Classical conditioning is conditioning an involuntary response. We have all heard of Pavilion or classical conditioning. Pavlov conditioned dogs to involuntary salivate when they heard a bell ring. He achieved this by ringing a bell whenever he fed the dogs. Eventually just the sound of a bell had the dogs salivating, its was a physiological response the dogs had no control over. We actually use the same process when we condition dogs to involuntarily switch in to an anxious or overly excited state of mind.

A very common example

We have a new puppy in the home. When we go out we lock the young pup in the laundry or in a crate. When we arrive home, the pup hears and smells our return, the pup becomes happy knowing it is going to get much undivided attention. As soon as we get inside, we go straight to our pup and remove it from the crate, or open the door to the laundry, and immediately start fussing over the pup, building up the pups excitement levels. We of course think this is cute, and interact with the pup at its level of excitement, and actually even work on increasing these levels, by our own interaction with the pup.

Now after a couple of times leaving the home, and returning, the pups level of excitement increases, with each initial contact after being separated from us. So each time we open the laundry door, or approach the crate, the dog becomes more and more excited. This overly excited behaviour, becomes an involuntary response that the pup can now no longer control, and is continually being strengthened.

Now let us take this too the next level. A pups sense of smell and hearing goes way beyond our own. Our pup eventually starts picking up on cues that we are arriving home, first its just the front door opening. When the pup hears the sound of the door opening, the pup is triggered immediately to become excited. Now what happens when this involuntary excited stated is not immediately satisfied by our direct contact? Well the pup starts to get anxious for the attention, the pup becomes a little distressed because once the excited state was triggered, there was no direct contact with us. Eventually we get to the laundry or crate, and then reinforce an overly excited and anxious state in the pup by again interacting with the pup. Over a period of a few days, the pup associates other cues with contact from us, next its the car pulling up in the driveway.. Pup immediately gets excited, but again the attention didn't come immediately. By the time we have parked the car, gotten our things out, locked the car, walked to the front door and opened it, the pups anxiety levels are increasing with every second it must wait for our attention. What do most people do, immediately go to their pup. Now we have a pup that is beside itself, can't settle, and in an overly anxious state, and all of this involuntary. Eventually your pup will even hear your car approaching down the street, blocks away from your home. Now the initial contact takes even longer, and the pups excitement turns to distress due to an  overly anxious state, that it has no control over. and yet what do most people do, reinforce this state in their pup, as soon as they get inside.

This behaviour is NOT cute! This dog is extremely distressed, due to an emotional state it has no control over.

That my friends is a classic example of classical or pavlovian conditioning. We can find other just as common examples if we look closely enough. Once we have conditioned these involuntary responses, it is difficult to then modify the dogs behaviour, because it is a behaviour or emotional state the dog has no control over. We then need to work on conditioning the dog to start taking control of any involuntary response, by commencing a behaviour modification program which can be very difficult for the dog. We need to not only recondition our dogs responses but more importantly our own responses. We need to commence setting consistent rules and boundaries, and reinforcing a calmer state in our dog.

So isn't an ounce of prevention so much better than a pound of cure? Not only for us, but more importantly for our dog, that is only reacting to its environment, that we actually conditioned by not understanding classical conditioning, and how it conditions involuntary responses. Even jumping can be a conditioned involuntary response.

What if my dog is already jumping due to overly excited behaviour?

childjumpThen you should be a responsible dog owner, and should NEVER place a child or any person in danger of injury. The dog needs to be conditioned that this response is not acceptable, involuntary or not. We should never take days or weeks to try and redirect a dogs attention away from jumping. The dog needs to learn immediately, and that can only be accomplished by conditioning the dog to avoid the behaviour, by correcting that behaviour. All it takes is a 1 to 3 second correction, and then informing your guests to never reinforce it again! It should not take days, weeks or months, but seconds!! For every minute we wait by only training to redirect behaviour, we are endangering children, the elderly and all people.


1 to 3 seconds of discomfort for a jumping dog, is much more humane than a child or elderly person getting injured from a jumping large dog. How often have we heard, "oh just ignore the jumping, he will learn to stop" or "just turn your back on him"..

We should never expect anyone to put up with and try to ignore our dogs bad behaviour because we are to emotional to cause our dog a little discomfort.

How many children or elderly people are knocked over and injured due to someones jumping dog? And we expect them to just ignore our dog?

Tell me its more humane to injure a child or elderly person, than it is to administer a 1 to 3 second correction.

Tell me its more humane for a dog to be taken to a shelter because he will not stop jumping on guests, than it is to administer a 1 to 3 second correction

Tell me its more humane for a shelter to kill a dog because they cannot stop a dog from jumping, than to administer a 1 to 3 second correction... (shelters like RSPCA will not re-home jumpers, they are PTS!)

There is no need to take, days, weeks or months for your dog to learn not to jump. All it takes is 1 to 3 seconds of discomfort, and no more jumping...

Please no more death before discomfort.


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