What is behaviour?

Is it something that just happens; or is it that cute trick you’ve trained, or the five minute down-stay you’re working on?  Is it only behaviour when you want to change it, or train it?  What is it the rest of the time?

Inka on a rock

Setting up this photo meant Inka had to perform several behaviours – how many can you count?

Behaviour is information

If you request a behaviour and it isn’t performed “properly” that’s information that perhaps the request wasn’t fully understood (the behaviour needs more training); or you’re currently asking too much for your dog’s level of training (e.g. a wait at the kitchen door is much easier than a wait at the front door); or perhaps your dog is too distracted or too stressed to be able to hear your cue, or carry it out fully; or maybe there’s a physical reason and a vet visit is needed.

Even “bad” behaviours are information.  Your dog barks at the mail carrier, but he’s done the job of letting you know someone’s on your property; perhaps he snaps at a well-meaning stranger on the street, but he’s just telling both of you that he’s uncomfortable with that situation; maybe she lunges at another dog when you’re out for an afternoon, she’s just telling you that the other dog was being rude, or perhaps had gotten to close for her liking.

A squirrel performs a cute behaviour for the camera – but what is s/he trying to convey? Original source –

Behaviour is always information, we need to let our dogs know that we’re listening to them, and act upon the information they give us.

Behaviour – how ever bad, stubborn, obnoxious, or annoying you think it is, should never be positively punished.  After all, even if you’ve taught your dog a behaviour and she’s not performing it when you ask, it’s just information which will help you see how she feels not only in her current surroundings, but also how she’s feeling in herself – whether she’s happy, stressed, sad, or in pain.

What behaviours has your dog done that have let you know something important?  Did you train them, or is it something your dog did on its own?


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