One of the ultimate keys to dog training is to give affection when your dog is doing something right. The problem is that most people are quick to give dogs affection at ALL times. Please remember that your dog will continue to do whatever it’s doing when you give affection and that includes his state of mind. Your dog might be sitting, but if he’s still hyper active and ready to jump back in your face as soon as you stop, don’t pet him. If your dog is nervous, fearful, or anxious the only thing you will accomplish by giving affection at that time is to reinforce that behavior. Your dog thinks “I’m getting affection right now, so in order to get more of this, I need to do the same thing again”. Thus begins the dangerous cycle of perpetual fear, dominance, aggression, or hyper-activity unconsciously being reinforced through affection at the wrong time. Learn to use self-control for the well-being of your dog. If your dog is the tiniest big excited when guests come over and they PET him–the only thing you are teaching your dog is to be excited when guests come over.

This is such a problem for humans because when a child is nervous, anxious or fearful you pick them up and console them. After you discipline a child, you give them affection and let them know that you still love them. NOT SO WITH DOGS!! You will never see a mother dog discipline and then go caress the pack member. You will never see a pack leader go cuddle with a dog that’s hiding because of a thunderstorm. In your dog’s eyes, it’s not normal for you to respond to every situation with affection, affection, affection.

So when IS the right time to show affection, you ask? You may give affection: 1) To reinforce trick training.  Your dog is focused and learning a new trick and when doing it properly you reward them. 2) You MAY give a massage or pat your dog when they are nervous, anxious or fearful. Do it confidently and without words. Do not feel sorry for the dog when you do it. Use deep, circular motions and pat them confidently on the chest or their side. 3) Pet, cuddle, caress and kiss when your dog is totally quiet, laying down, not caring about what’s happening around them. You need to reinforce CALMNESS.

Pay attention this week to when you give your dog affection and their state of mind or energy level at the time of that affection. Lead your dog!