In your mind you paint a picture of your dog’s desired behaviors. The things you’d like to do with your dog, the way your dog is going to interact with you and the wonderful relationship you will enjoy.
When you paint a mental picture you don’t really think about all the other behaviors.
But culturally we seem to be tempted to only react when the behaviors go “outside the lines”. We concentrate on reining in behaviors that go “over the line” instead of cultivating the many offered behaviors already present within our framework.
When people talk about their pup’s active behaviors they report the jumping, the nipping the chewing, the peeing in the house. Never do they elaborate on the playfulness, how the puppy likes the crate, loves his toys and likes to rest gently touching the humans’ feet.
If you were painting an image, would you constantly concentrate on the times your paintbrush slipped outside the frame? No! Well, only if you are neurotically counting mistakes!
When creating a painting you would want to concentrate on making the colors stronger, adding more and more layers of paint, making the image inside the frame more expressive, adding more details and variety. You would practically ignore the brush strokes going “outside the lines” because you will eventually use a frame and or a mat to frame the entire picture and those missteps will be hidden.
That is in my mind an exact parallel to shaping a behavior canvas for your dog. Strengthening behaviors you would like your dog to practice more and with more frequency and enthusiasm, as opposed to constantly correcting the dog. Unlike a pencil line that can be erased, behaviors are more like oil paint. Once the behavior has happened there is a permanent mark on the canvas. A practiced repetition represents a reinforcement embedded in the memory.
So please notice and reward your puppy highly when he offers calm behavior or plays nicely with one of his toys.
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