Recently we shared a video on Facebook with a puppy taking toilet paper from the roll and making his merry way across the house with a trail of TP. Very similar to the pup in this video, example above.
Very funny stuff….this prompted a discussion on what would you do about this? A+ to all those that mentioned placing the toilet paper roll on the counter or other excellent suggestions that involve prevention and management. Two important concepts often overlooked in training are prevention and management. Can we prevent the pup from engaging in the unwanted TP behavior? Yepper. Can we manage the environment to make this behavior less likely? Yepper.
Do we need to teach the puppy that unrolling toilet paper is wrong and bad? Do we? Think about it…..how else is (s)he going to learn? That was a trick question….you behavioral savvy folks knew that. It is very human to want to use punishment….in various forms. It’s human and very reinforcing to humans, sadly. We could scold, or yell, or hit and think this will let the puppy know that TP racing is bad. But what happens is quite the opposite. Puppy learns that TP play equals you yelling or scolding and then pup thinks maybe I should not unroll TP with that human present. Dogs operate from a safety or danger perspective vs a right or wrong. Think about small humans, say under 5 years of age here. They are not out to get you…..they do not operate from a place of spite and vengeance, neither do our companion dogs. Think of a 3 year old kid alone with some markers… they color the wall. Do we say, “you did that because I made you take a nap today!” No, they did that because they are living in the moment and prevention and management were not present.
Wait…so what can you do to address puppy and toilet paper….prevent him/her from getting the TP, like place TP on the counter. Manage the environment by closing the door and…….here is the FUN part, well for me, that is… teach the pup what we do want him/her to play with, and how/what that looks like.
Provide a wide variety of toys and chews. Let me explain, what this looks like exactly. A wide variety… say 7-15 toys that are appropriate and safe (that’s an entire blog in itself) available. People tell me that they do that… they show me their filled toy baskets. Click and treat as that is a big start, but only a start. We need to reinforce pup when (s)he plays with those toys. Pup picks up his/her toy and you clap and smile. Then go to him/her and play tug or offer yummy food treats! Let him/her know that playing with his/her toys is the most amazing behavior you have witnessed in days. I am being a bit dramatic to get my point across. Reinforce your pup for playing with his/her toys if you want him/her to continue this!
If you remember nothing else try this as your guide… You don’t get what you want but whatever you reinforce.