Behavior is Shaped by the Environment

I try not to sound like a broken record, but I do continually hit home the fact that the environment is training your dog.  Specifically, the environment is shaping your dogs behavior in small successes each day, each minute.

Why is this important?  If your puppy barks frequently to get your older dog to interact with it, then this pup is learning to be rude and bark loudly in order to gain the attention it desires.  What if your puppy is jumping on you to get attention then quickly sitting for the reward?  You pup will learn that jumping gets a) your attention, and b) some form of a yummy treat.

What if your adolescent dog is repeatedly getting into scuffles at the local dog park or in day care?  Your dog is learning the tools to be successful, lunging quicker, faster, higher can be very rewarding.  Dogs, simply stated, do what works for them.


Think about how other forms of life are shaped by the environment they live in, and often shape that environment in return. Do the habits of your roommate, co-worker or spouse effect your behavior?  Do you ever avoid, engage, or seek out a particular human just because it meets your needs?  Dogs do the same!

The photo below shows a small Dachshund mix thinking about stealing some breakfast! However, the Golden uses what works for her to prevent sharing.  

This Golden has learned that a hard eyed stare will make the smaller Dachshund mix turn and move away from her food.

If the hard eye stare works, then the Golden no longer needs to attack to get her message across.  Dogs, again, do what works for them.

In this photo to the right the dogs are learning that they get rewarded when they offer calm behavior such as a down position.  Very quickly the dogs learn that when they are lying down the cookies begin to drop from the sky!  We then ask the dogs to move to a new spot and they again quickly offer a down knowing their behavior predicts good things!

Again, habits are formed by practicing them daily and by enjoying the rewards they offer.  So if you see your dog forming good habits like sitting to go out or sitting for affection, then great!  But if your pup is over mouthy and you find yourself rewarding with play, then think about how you or your environment is shaping your dogs behavior on a daily basis. Make the necessary changes to set your pup up for good habits that will be enjoyed and appreciated!