I just realized I’ve been accidentally reinforcing my dog digging at the couch

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sourced from: https://www.reddit.com/r/Dogtraining/comments/idmanu/i_just_realized_ive_been_accidentally_reinforcing/

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My dog’s most annoying habit (other than barking) is that she LOVES to dig at the couch and pull the cushions/pillows off of it. I realized a few weeks ago that I was accidentally reinforcing this by scolding her/telling her to stop. She wants my attention and by scolding, I was telling her that digging was a good way to get it. I’ve attempted to cut out all scolding when she digs, by calmly walking over and telling her to get off the couch, repeat as necessary. But when I’ve done that 10 times in a row and I just want to sit and watch TV after a long day at work… I end up getting frustrated and pulling out a toy for her to play with so I can relax.

Tonight I made her get off the couch twice, and then she went and stood by the shelf where I keep the toys. I was like oh god… what have I done! She’s always finding new and creative ways to annoy me and I keep finding new ways to accidentally reinforce it… UGH.

How can I break this cycle? Obviously the toys are a great way to keep her busy, I’m sure the digging is initiated from her being bored. We have been working on the relaxation protocol on her bed. Would an appropriate course of action when she starts digging be to make her lay on the bed for a few minutes before I dispense the toy? To make her think she gets the toy for laying calmly instead of digging and being generally wild?

Please no suggestions about keeping her busy before the digging starts, she gets plenty of exercise/training/play time throughout the day. I’m focused on reinforcing calm behavior and interrupting the digging, complete prevention through exhaustion doesn’t seem plausible.

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