Changing Behaviour routines & Patterns


Dogs often get into set patterns or routines of stressful behaviour. This is because the behaviours were rewarding in the past and have "solved the problem" for the dog (eg. If the dog barks at the postman he always goes away). As far as the dog is concerned there is no reason to change these rewarding routines and patterns.

These set behaviours are triggered by Environmental Photos that trigger the dog to repeat the behaviour (eg. Sound of postman's footsteps on the gravel > dog runs to front door and barks > postman walks away). By removing the triggers or offering the dog a more rewarding alternative behaviour, these set patterns may be stopped or become less intense.

For instance, possible solutions to the "postman" behaviour routine may be -

  • Reduce the likelihood of sounds being made when deliveries are being made. For instance,
    - Replace gravel paths or drives at the front of the house - the dogs can hear the crunch of footsteps on the loose stones.
    - Oil squeaky hinges on gates and put draft excluder tape on the edge of the gate so that it does not bang against the other piece of wood/ metal when shutting
    - Draft excluder tape can also be put on letterboxes to prevent them making loud banging noises when they shut.
  • Dogs are wonderful burglar alarms and we should allow them to bark a warning if someone enters the boundaries of our property. However, the problem is how to make them stop barking! I find the best way is to play a game of Find It in a specific room or area of the house so that the dog barks a warning then runs to the area to wait for me to hide or throw food treats or toys for it to find. We are rewarding the guarding instincts but managing the situation by giving the dog something else to concentrate on instead. The use of a Houseline may also be of benefit in these sort of situations, as you can physically move the dog to the other room without having to try and catch or manhandle it.
  • Get into a routine of making sure that the dog is at the back of the house when the postman usually delivers your mail. By managing the situation and preventing the dog reaching the post box and "attacking" the post (which the dog sees as an intruder as it is covered in other people's scent and invades its territory by coming through the letter box) and by giving alternative things to do (such as lick out a Kong). Use the sound of a radio or TV to cover the sounds of the approach of the postman and the rattle of the letterbox.
  • Have an external letter box fitted at the edge of your property (eg. By the gate or fence) so that the postman does not have to come up to the house door.

Other ways of managing and changing dogs behavioural patterns are -

  1. Some dogs feel less FASED if their routines are not disrupted too much. Try to feed them, exercise, train and rest them at specific times so that the dog is not anxious about what is going to happen next. It will gain confidence in itself and its environment and will be able to cope with gradual changes to its routine.
  2. On the other hand, dogs can become bored and frustrated by the monotony of their lives and will perk up no end by not having a regular routine. These dogs prefer different types of walks of both exciting and less stimulating nature. Feeding time should not be fixed for these types of dogs and training should be spontaneous but never done in the Relaxing Room.

With your experience of your dog you should be able to decide which of these options works best. For instance, a rehomed dog or one lacking in confidence would require a comfortable set routine, as in option 1.

However, a well established dog may feel frustrated with the hum-drum routine of option 1 all the time and would benefit from more variety as suggested in option 2.


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