Problem solving dog behaviors (free worksheet!)

Whether you are trying to figure out what to do about a problem behavior or trying to figure out why your dog isn’t listening, use these tips (or call me ?) to figure it out:

What is the behavior – what does it look like? Strictly observations – don’t add any emotions or try to analyze it.

What kind of situation causes the behavior? What happens before the behavior occurs?

What happens right after the behavior occurs (aka how is the behavior being reinforced)?

What would you like your dog to do instead (or what is the replacement behavior)? This is where you have to get creative. Think what about this behavior can I reinforce or what can I change so that I can reinforce a different behavior?

Once you figure this out, you (or a dog trainer) will need to teach your dog the replacement behavior and reinforce that instead of the problem behavior.

Example 1

What is the behavior – what does it look like? My dog Junior jumps up on people.

What kind of situation causes the behavior? Guests coming into the house, walking past strangers on the street.

What happens right after it (aka how is the behavior being reinforced)? We yell at him to get down or people push him away at our house (which is actually giving him the attention he is looking for), jerk back on the leash.

What would you like your dog to do instead (what is the replacement behavior)? Sit or stand politely.

Training Plan: Teach him to sit or stand when guests arrive by having guests ignore naughty behavior and only give him attention when he has all four paws on the floor. Keep him on leash when people arrive and step on the leash so that while you aren’t jerking on it, he cannot jump. When all four paws are on the floor, reinforce with a treat or with attention from the guest.

On the walk, ask people to wait until he sits, or try the stepping on the leash technique.

Example 2

What is the behavior – what does it look like? My dog won’t sit on the hard floor, only on the carpet.

What kind of situation causes the behavior? Asking her to sit on the hard floor.

What happens right after it (aka how is the behavior being reinforced)? I give up and take her to the carpet to practice sit.

What would you like your dog to do instead? Sit down on any surface.

Training Plan: Buy a carpet square and practice having your dog sit on the carpet square on the harder surfaces. As your dog gets more comfortable, cut the square so that it is smaller and smaller, and eventually your dog will not even realize that she is sitting on the hard floor!

What problems are you dealing with? Try using this problem solving worksheet, and let me know how it goes!