Jumping on people. Counter surfing. Chewing up shoes. We love our dogs, but not so much when they’re exhibiting these unwanted behaviors. Any dog, whether they’re puppies or adults, may develop habits we find unacceptable. Here are some strategies to help you curb unwanted behaviors.
Strategies for Success
- Training is key. Teaching your dog to sit, come, or lie down may not seem related to a barking, jumping, or chewing problem, but it is. Positive reward-based training teaches your dog that good things happen when he does what you ask, strengthens your bond, and provides mental stimulation that will help tire him out, making him less likely to misbehave. Try introducing a new command each week and continue to practice the old ones.
- Exercise helps release energy. A tired dog is a good dog. If you’re gone 12 hours a day, and your dog’s walk consists of a quick dash into the backyard, you’re not providing your pet with adequate exercise. Excess energy may be channeled into chewing your shoes, or dragging you on the leash. Puppies generally have more energy than adult dogs and require more exercise. Also, your dog’s breed influences the level of physical activity he needs.
- Prevent your pup from learning bad behaviors.Puppy-proof your house. Put shoes and toys away. Pick houseplants up off the floor. Supervise the puppy, even in your fenced-in yard. It’s easier to prevent bad habits from being learned than it is to correct them.
- Reward desired behaviors. If your dog is lying quietly instead of jumping or barking, praise and pet him. If your dog walks beside you on the leash, tell him what a good dog he is. Telling him what you want him to do is easier for him to understand – for example “sit” rather than “don’t jump” or “heel” rather than “don’t pull.”
- Consistency makes the difference. If you don’t feed the dog from the table but your spouse or children slip him treats, he’ll learn to beg. Or if you ignore him for jumping on you, but others pet him when he does, guess what he’ll do. Everyone has to follow the same rules when it comes to setting standards for dog behavior.
Tactical Tips for Unwanted Dog Behaviors
- The first step is to greet your dog calmly, so you’re not getting him over-excited.
- Since the objective of jumping up is attention, refusing to give your attention is the best way to discourage jumping. Stand like a statue or turn your back.
- If you’ve taught the “sit” command, ask for a sit — a sitting dog can’t jump. Then get down on your dog’s level and give him the attention he wants. Eventually, the dog should initiate the sit without being asked.
- To prevent your dog from jumping on people who visit, use a crate, a “place” command, a baby gate, or keep him on leash until he calms down.
- Chewing is a necessary and normal behavior for dogs, especially when they’re teething. The most effective way to save your possessions from destruction is to keep them out of your dog’s reach.
- Offer your dog objects he can chew on that are appropriate for his age and size — but never old socks or shoes.
- Give him lots of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Teach him the “leave it”
3. Counter surfing
- Once rewarded, counter surfing may take a long time to stop. If you can make sure that they never, ever find anything good there, then maybe they will give up.
- Put your dog in her crate or teach her to keep her “place” on her mat when you’re preparing food.
- Teach the “leave it” command.
- Never feed your dog scraps from the counter when you’re preparing food or cleaning up.
4. Leash pulling
- Try not to pull your dog — if you pull on the leash, it’s instinctive for your dog to pull back.
- Reinforce your dog for walking nicely on the leash when he walks by your side by praising, clicking, or offering treats.
- He must learn to pay attention to you no matter how exciting he finds the environment, so it’s a good idea to first practice where there are few distractions.
- If he pulls, you stop. You can also redirect by quickly doing a 180 and calling him back to your side. Be consistent – don’t let him pull you, and make sure others who walk him also won’t let him pull.
- It’s a given — dogs bark, but barking can quickly become a nuisance. Teach a “quiet” or “enough” command. Then as soon as your dog starts to bark, you calmly say “quiet.” He should stop barking and come to you – and you can praise him or give him a treat.
- Remember, the more excited you get the more likely your dog thinks there’s something to bark about.
- It’s a good idea to consider why he’s barking – he’s bored, needs exercise, or is afraid of other dogs and people and needs additional socialization.
- If he’s barking at you for attention, don’t give it unless he’s quiet.
Dogs are creatures of habit, and once habits form it can take lots of effort for you to change them. Your dog wants to understand what you want him to do, but it will take time and patience to make your objectives clear and guide your pup away from unwanted behaviors to better ones. Consulting a qualified dog trainer can help you get started.
Spray Bottles Have No Place in Animal Training
Spraying a dog with water to curb unwanted behavior has been used for decades. Cats are lumped into this punishment-based technique too; they’re often sprayed for scratching furniture or climbing on countertops. Dog spraying is employed by owners for any behavior they find inappropriate. But does spraying your dog with water work?
Does dog spraying work? Maybe temporarily, but it’s a new day. We now know that training your dog with negative techniques such as dog spraying can do a lot of harm. Fortunately, we have newer and very effective ways to discourage undesirable animal behavior, so throw away that spray bottle!
Does Spraying a Dog or Cat With Water Work?
Nope, training your dog by spraying it with water does not work. When working with dog training clients, trainers have witnessed some who spray their puppies for mouthing, yet their arms are covered in scratches. Spraying the dog with water was not helping. One client sprayed her cats whenever they clawed her furniture. She had two massive water bottles in each room to deter this behavior, and she squirted them numerous times during our 1-hour consultation. Unfortunately, every piece of her cloth furniture was scratched down to the foam with shredded cloth strings dangling. So, does cat or dog spraying work? Clearly, it does not.
Why Doesn’t Spraying a Dog with Water Work?
Punishment does not teach your dog (or cat) what to do instead of scratch furniture, bark, dig, etc. Squirting your dog with a water bottle may stop the behavior temporarily. However, this punishment teaches your dog to practice the undesired behavior when you and the water bottle are not present. Think about it this way: When you receive a speeding ticket, it’s effective punishment, but only temporarily. After a few days, you resume your lead foot behavior, but remember to slow down when approaching the area in which you were ticketed. When police are no longer present, you begin speeding through the area again.
In order to effectively change your pet’s behavior, the undesired behavior should stop permanently—even when you and the water bottle are not present. Plus, some dogs love being sprayed, and it becomes a game for some cats.
Smarter Ways to Train Your Dog
Since punishment is temporary, it’s vital to teach your dog to perform an incompatible behavior. Instead of spraying your dog with water, teach your dog what to do instead of the undesired behavior.
- If your dog barks, reward him for quiet behavior.
- Redirect your digging dog to an approved digging area in your yard.
- Teach your cat to claw scratching posts instead of furniture (by the way, the cat client did not have a scratching post. Once three posts were introduced into the environment, she was able to purchase new furniture.)
- Reward your dog for sitting instead of jumping.
Teaching an incompatible behavior will positively change your pet’s behavior. Reward the behaviors you like and redirect the behaviors you don’t like. This formula works every time.
We have two husky pups that dont get on with one of our rescue females, the rescue was used as a bait dog after doesnt do well with other dogs so they steal kept separate. However whenever the rescue female is near the pups crates the pups wont stop barking and growling at her. So we use a spray bottle on the pups. Not as punishment but as a distraction so they forget shes their and then they settle down. Is this the correct thing to do?
It might surprise you to hear this, but living with a dog is not all fun and games. No matter how cute our four-legged friends are, sometimes it’s necessary to correct their behavior.
But, what is the right way to discipline your dog? Some people think that punishing a dog is the only way to get them to behave, while others propose a positive reinforcement method, where your pooch learns through a reward-based system.
Knowing how to encourage good behavior in a dog will save you a lot of trouble in the long run, so it’s crucial to learn about the most efficient methods and training techniques. Trust me, your furball will thank you for it.
With the use of a remote interactive pet camera, you can use the power of a verbal, “No!” even when you’re at the office.
Is Punishment an Efficient Dog Training Method?
Before we start analyzing the effectiveness of different training methods, we should understand what punishment, by definition, means. The term often implies a discipline method that is based on physical harm, like spanking or hitting your dog.
However, there are actually both positive and negative forms of punishment, and they belong to two different categories:
- Positive obedience training
- Aversive obedience training
Punishment as an aversive method includes discipline that causes pain to your dog. Not only are these practices cruel and harsh, they are also completely ineffective.
On the other hand, knowing how to punish a dog in a humane way is much more productive. Using positive reinforcements to train your dog, rather than resorting to force, is the best method to discipline your dog.
Punishment vs. Discipline
When done properly, punishment doesn’t have to be negative. Constructive punishment helps your dog learn through conditioning, and quickly understand what’s allowed and what’s not. Disciplinary methods that are considered to be positive and beneficial are:
- Using your voice to put a stop to unwanted behavior, rather than hitting your dog
- Taking their toys away
- Avoiding giving your dog attention when they misbehave
All the tips mentioned above are both humane and highly efficient at the same time. Your dog won’t feel scared or wary of you, but they will understand that what they did won’t be tolerated.
Are There Effects Of Spanking?
Using hitting or spanking as a method of punishment can severely damage the relationship you have with your dog. If you start using force to discipline them, your dog can develop various behavioral issues. Some typical problems that hitting your dog will cause are:
- Insecurity and fearfulness
- Instinct to hide or run away from you
If you’re beating your dog, you’re not addressing the problem, you’re teaching them to see you as a source of pain. Whether the reason for punishment is excessive barking, peeing in the house or snatching food off your counter, punishment in the form of spanking is only going to make matters worse.
Your dog won’t be disciplined if they’re punished with force. In the majority of cases, physical punishment only makes dogs scared and confused. Why? Because you’re conditioning your dog to expect pain from you, without them being able to understand the reason for it.
How to Discipline a Puppy
Same as it is with humans, it’s easier for dogs to get the hang of things while they are young. However, this doesn’t mean that the process will be easier.
Puppies are full of energy and still at a stage of development when they need to learn everything from scratch. A puppy doesn’t understand it’s wrong to chew shoes, poop in the living room or bite your toes.
So, how do you raise a puppy to become a well-socialized, well-behaved dog?
Through treats and praise.
If you’re unsure how to punish a puppy, use the same positive reinforcement principles you would with adult dogs. It might seem that using rewards as a way to discipline a dog is counterproductive, but it’s actually a powerful training method.
By learning that certain types of behavior result in affection and prizes, they’ll quickly realize they need to continue that practice. Similarly, when something of value is withheld or taken away, it teaches them to avoid actions that lead to this.
Fortunately, dog owners have the ability to watch dogs, even remotely. If you have a pup that misbehaves when you are out of the room, you can discover when and how that behavior happened with the use of a remote pet camera, like Petcube.
Why Positive Reinforcements Work Better Than Punishment
Unlike hitting a dog, which is cruel and futile, disciplining a dog with a reward system is a tried and true method that has real benefits.
Constructive and positive training methods help your dog learn the proper behavior through conditioning, which is the best way to discipline a dog.
When a certain activity results in eating treats or getting belly rubs, you can be sure your dog will want to do it as often as possible. For example, if going potty outside means being praised and petted on the head while doing business on the bedroom floor means time out, the choice is easy for a dog. They love pleasing their owners, and when disciplined properly, they’ll know how to do exactly that.
What Are The Best Solutions For Disciplining A Dog
Now that we’ve determined that positive, reward-based discipline is the key, the trick is to learn how to use that method with your own dog.
Focus on activities and items your pooch loves. In most cases, it will be snuggle time, walks, or a tasty treat. To properly discipline your dog, you will need to let them know you’re in control of their favorite activities. Whenever they do something they are not supposed to, like bite or run away, punish them by withholding the rewards they’re used to.
However, even when you manage to establish positive and negative punishment through rewards, it can be hard to discipline your dog if you’re often away.
Pet cameras that double as treat dispensers, such as Petcube Bites 2, can help you reward your pet for their good behavior remotely, or interrupt unwanted behavior with verbal commands via the two-way audio feature. Even well-behaved dogs can suffer from separation anxiety, which leads them to engage in destructive behavior. Dog cameras that allow you to monitor their activities and assist positive reinforcement training can help you stay on top of the situation at all times.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that punishing a dog doesn’t have to be negative. Dogs need structure in their lives, and when you establish discipline in your household, both you and your dog will be much happier for it.
Petcube products are designed to make pets and their pet parents happy. Petcube Play 2 interactive pet camera and Petcube Bites 2 treat camera let you watch, hear, play, train and give treats to your pet remotely. Our sound and motion alerts will let you catch destructive or distressed behavior before it gets out of hand.
In dog training, an aversive is something you use to stop a dog’s unwanted behavior. It includes things a dog finds distasteful or uncomfortable, such as a bitter apple spray, a shock collar, or a shaker can. These methods shouldn’t be used in place of other training, but are most effective when paired with obedience training.
Before using aversives, it’s best to consider your options with great care. While they may be effective in some situations, there are a number of problems associated with their use.
There are many different things that can be used as aversives. Before you can use (or avoid using) them, it’s important to understand what’s viewed as an aversive. They are usually related to a dog’s senses:
- Taste: These aversives are typically used to prevent a dog from chewing. They include bitter apple sprays, pepper, vinegar, or anything else you can apply to an object to make it distasteful to your dog.
- Touch: Aversives in this category are unpleasant for your dog to feel. This includes the shock from a mat to keep dogs off the furniture or a shock collar to keep them in the yard. A spray bottle of water, sticky surfaces (e.g., double-sided tape), and slippery surfaces like aluminum foil are also commonly used as deterrents.
- Sound: These aversives create noises that dogs find disturbing. Things such as shaker cans, air horns, vacuum cleaners, and whistles fall into this category.
Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Reaction
When it comes to aversives, the effectiveness will depend greatly on the dog. One dog may stop in its tracks at the sound of a shaker can full of pennies while another may not even blink. Some dogs may stop chewing the table leg at the first taste of bitter apple, and others have been known to enjoy the taste, thus making them more likely to chew the item.
When using aversives, pay attention to your dog’s reaction. You want to make sure they’re actually serving the purpose for which you intended them.
Don’t Overuse Aversives
Sometimes aversives become less effective the more you use them. For instance, if you spray your dog with water when it jumps on the counter, it may be startled enough to jump off. After a few sprays, however, the dog may become used to it and the spray will no longer have any effect.
If you use an aversive, do so sparingly. Do your best to use other methods to correct the behavior, such as a firm “no” when the dog jumps on the counter. Reward the dog—even if it’s just praise—when it does what you ask and it will learn what is acceptable behavior if you’re consistent.
Be Careful of Your Association With Aversives
Another problem is that you are often in control of the aversive, so it only happens when you’re around. For instance, your dog may stop counter surfing when you spray it with the spray bottle, but it will soon learn that it only gets sprayed when you’re in the room. Here you are not training the dog not to counter surf, you are only teaching it not to counter surf when you’re around.
Try a different approach instead. In the counter surfing example, you’ll want to be proactive rather than reactive. Keep the counters clear of food temptations and teach your dog to keep its paws on the floor. You can also send your dog to its “place” when you’re cooking and avoid feeding the dog table scraps so it doesn’t learn to love people food.
Don’t Use Aversives With Fearful Dogs
Fearful dogs usually don’t react well to aversives, so they should be avoided with dogs that tend to be timid or who scare easily. A loud noise that might simply startle one dog off the kitchen counter can make a fearful dog terrified to ever enter the kitchen again. In this case, the aversive is actually too effective. It can break down your dog’s trust in you and potentially cause other behavioral issues that are more difficult to deal with.
With these dogs, it’s important to focus your training attention on positive reinforcement techniques only. Not only is it a more gentle approach, but it will also help build your bond as the dog becomes more trusting of you.
Avoid Building Aggression
Research studies have confirmed what many dog trainers have believed for years: Dogs who are punished are more likely to react with aggression. This is the case with certain aversives. If you give your dog a leash correction or hit it, for instance, the dog may growl, snap, or bite in response.
This can become a learned behavior and the dog may act out at the slightest hint of aggression toward it. Even if the person’s intention was completely innocent—a child excited to see a “puppy,” for instance—the dog may perceive it as a threat. Dog owners should strive for the opposite effect and do everything possible to stop aggressive behavior.
Oftentimes, the solution is to avoid punishing bad behavior with an aversive and instead redirect the dog’s attention to a positive experience. For instance, rather than sprinkling hot pepper flakes on a piece of furniture that your dog’s chewing, offer a treat-filled toy to chew on and occupy its time.
Problems and Proofing Behavior
In many cases, aversives can be considered inhumane because they’re harmful to the dog. There is much debate about the use of shock collars because some people believe the shock causes dogs pain. Other questionable aversives include hitting, leash corrections, alpha rolls, and the use of choke or prong collars.
Before using any aversive, be sure to consider whether it will have any harmful effects on your dog. Something like bitter apple spray may well be very effective and save your furniture. However, relying on a shock collar for training has the potential to turn a friendly dog into a timid or aggressive one.
It’s important to look at alternative options, which may be more effective. For instance, positive reinforcement is recommended over punishment because it teaches dogs what you actually want them to do without all the negative side effects. Going through a training class or working with a veterinary behaviorist privately are other options.
There are also multi-functional e-collars available. While most of these devices also have the shock option, many dog owners find that they never have to use it. Instead, they use the collar’s harmless vibrate and beep functions as a communication tool to aid in normal obedience training. When used with the right approach, e-collars can be effective and safe.
Keep in mind that raising well-behaved dogs takes time and patience. If you stick with it, your pup can truly become your best friend and will do anything you ask because dogs want to please their people.
Here’s a list of six techniques that can help stop your dog from barking. While all can be successful, you shouldn’t expect miraculous results overnight. The longer your dog has been practicing the barking behavior, the longer it will take for them to change their ways.
Some of these training techniques require you to have an idea as to why your dog barks.
Always remember to keep these tips in mind while training:
- Don’t yell at your dog to be quiet—it just sounds like you’re barking along with them.
- Keep your training sessions positive and upbeat.
- Be consistent so you don’t confuse your dog. Everyone in your family must apply the training methods every time your dog barks inappropriately. You can’t let your dog get away with inappropriate barking some times and not others.
Remove the motivation
Your dog gets some kind of reward when they bark. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. Figure out what they get out of barking and remove it. Don’t give your dog the opportunity to continue the barking behavior.
Example: Barking at passersby
- If they bark at people or animals passing by the living room window, manage the behavior by closing the curtains or putting your dog in another room.
- If they bark at passersby when in the yard, bring them into the house. Never leave your dog outside unsupervised all day and night.
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Ignore the barking
If you believe your dog is barking to get your attention, ignore them for as long as it takes them to stop. Don’t talk to them, don’t touch them, don’t even look at them; your attention only rewards them for being noisy. When they finally quiet, even to take a breath, reward them with a treat.
To be successful with this method, you must be patient. If they bark for an hour and you finally get so frustrated that you yell at them to be quiet, the next time they’ll probably bark for an hour and a half. They learn that if they just bark long enough, you’ll give them attention.
Example: Barking when confined
- When you put your dog in their crate or in a gated room, turn your back and ignore them.
- Once they stop barking, turn around, praise them and give a treat.
- As they catch on that being quiet gets them a treat, lengthen the amount of time they must remain quiet before being rewarded.
- Remember to start small by rewarding them for being quiet for just a few seconds, then working up to longer periods of quiet.
- Keep it fun by varying the amount of time. Sometimes reward them after five seconds, then 12 seconds, then three seconds, then 20 seconds and so on.
Desensitize your dog to the stimulus
Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing them to bark. Start with the stimulus (the thing that makes them bark) at a distance. It must be far enough away that they don’t bark when they see it. Feed them lots of good treats. Move the stimulus a little closer (perhaps as little as a few inches or a few feet to start) and feed treats. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things (treats)!
Example: Barking at other dogs
- Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight or far enough away so your dog won’t bark at the other dog.
- As your friend and their dog come into view, start feeding your dog treats.
- Stop feeding treats as soon as your friend and their dog disappear from view.
- Repeat the process multiple times.
- Remember not to try to progress too quickly as it may take days or weeks before your dog can pay attention to you and the treats without barking at the other dog.
Ask your dog for an incompatible behavior
When your dog starts barking, ask them to do something that’s incompatible with barking. Teaching your dog to react to barking stimuli with something that inhibits them from barking, such as lying down on their bed.
Example: Someone at the door
- Toss a treat on their bed and tell them to “go to your bed.”
- When they’re reliably going to their bed to earn a treat, up the ante by opening the door while they’re on their bed. If they get up, close the door immediately.
- Repeat until they stay in bed while the door opens.
- Then increase the difficulty by having someone ring the doorbell while your dog is in bed. Reward them if they stay in place.
Keep your dog tired
Make sure your dog is getting sufficient physical and mental exercise every day. A tired dog is a good dog and one who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration. Depending on their breed, age and health, your dog may require several long walks as well as a good game of chasing the ball and playing with some interactive toys.
Contact a certified professional dog trainer
If you believe your dog is barking reactively to strangers, family members or other dogs, or if the above tips prove unsuccessful, consider reaching out to a certified professional dog trainer for help.
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Every dog owner wants their canine companion to be well-mannered and obedient, but there will always be times when a dog’s behavior is anything but perfect. Learning how to control bad dog behavior is essential to properly train your pet and teach it how to recognize and fulfill your expectations of being a “good dog.”
Types of Bad Dog Behavior
There are many different dog behaviors that may seem bad. Just how bad the behavior is depends on a range of factors, such as…
- Breed – Some dogs are known for “bad” behaviors such as digging, excessive barking, etc.
- Age – Unwelcome behaviors are often more common among puppies or elderly dogs
- Training – Some behaviors are easily changed with training, if that training is properly applied
- Situation – Bad behavior varies with a situation, such as barking without cause or at an intruder
- Owner Preferences – What may seem bad to one owner is not a problem to another
In general, dog behavior is considered bad if it is excessive and unwelcome, despite attempts to correct the dog. While not every dog will exhibit all potentially bad behaviors, different types of bad behavior can include…
- Jumping up
- Biting or nipping
- Leash pulling
- Urine marking
While the occasional incident with any of these behaviors is not usually a problem, ongoing, repeated behavior can be a challenge to correct. Fortunately, there are ways to help control a dog’s bad behavior.
Controlling Dog Behavior Problems
The first step in controlling poor behavior is determining the cause of the dog’s reaction. Different medical conditions could lead to poor behavior, such as a dog with an ear infection being more sensitive to noises and barking in protest, or a dog with a bladder infection urinating more around the house. Stress, anxiety or unfamiliar stimuli could also trigger bad behavior. Once the source of the poor behavior is discovered, it is possible to control the dog’s response with different techniques, such as.
If you know the trigger for your dog’s bad behavior, it may be easy to remove that trigger. For example, replace a doorbell when the sound triggers barking, do not give your dog table scraps to prevent begging or keep your dog out of the kitchen if counter-surfing is a problem.
Know Your Dog
In some cases, bad behavior may be because you aren’t aware of your dog’s needs. A puppy or senior dog that may pee in the house could benefit from more frequent bathroom breaks outside. Recognizing your dog’s signals can help you learn what it needs so you can help it avoid behaving badly.
Some bad behavior, such as digging or chasing, can be the result of pent-up energy. Giving your dog more exercise can help burn off energy so your dog isn’t tempted to behave poorly, and will reinforce your bond with your pet so it will be more likely to pay attention to you and obey your commands.
Ignore the Behavior
Many types of bad behavior are intended to get attention, such as jumping up, barking or begging. If you ignore the behavior, the dog will not get the attention it is seeking, and its behavior will eventually change. This includes not shouting or punishing the dog’s actions, because even bad attention is still attention the dog wants.
Some behavior that may seem bad is actually instinctive for a dog, such as chewing and digging, and it may be impossible to completely stop the behavior. Instead, redirect the dog to more appropriate choices, such as providing safe chew toys or permitting digging in one specific spot to spare the rest of your possessions and yard from unwanted attention.
No matter what your dog’s bad behavior, it is important to stay calm. Your excitement, even if it is shouting or gesturing because you’re angry or upset, could be seen as play or encouragement, something your dog will enjoy. Instead, keep your voice low and level, your gestures slow and deliberate and all your actions calming to help calm your pet.
When your dog is doing something bad, it can be helpful to have an interrupt command the dog is trained to obey. You may use “Stop!” “No!” “Drop it!” or “Leave It!” to get your dog’s attention and let them know their behavior is unacceptable. A harsh, loud tone of voice will help reinforce the meaning of the command and teach your dog to cease and desist.
With some behaviors, socializing may be all that’s needed to correct the behavior. The more accustomed the dog is to different sounds and scents, the less likely the dog is to overreact at a new sensation. More exposure will help your dog become acclimated to different surroundings so any bad behavior is minimized.
Regularly reinforcing training with your dog will help them stay bonded to you and recognize you as an authority figure, which can help minimize bad behavior when you give commands or use other techniques to discourage different actions. The key is to always be consistent, and all family members should use the same techniques to halt bad behavior.
In extreme cases, it may be necessary to work with a trainer to try and curb a dog’s bad behavior. A trainer can offer you several options for controlling unwanted behaviors, and can help you find what will work best for your dog to stop them from unwelcome actions.
It’s important to note that while you may want your dog to be well behaved at all times, there may always be accidents or slips in discipline. The key is to keep working with your pet and minimizing problems, and the occasional bad manners or bad behavior won’t be as disruptive.
F or those of us who usually work all day and then spend a concentrated period of time at home attending to the dog (walking, playing, petting, etc.), our presence all day every day may be confusing. Some dogs naturally think that us being home all day means that we are now always available.
When we are not available, dogs’ frustration and anxiety can lead to barking, pawing and nosing, counter surfing, shoe stealing, and other unwanted behaviors that relieve anxiety and frustration (for them) and gain our attention.
It is important to know that these behaviors, though certainly annoying, are not motivated by anger or vindictiveness. Attention-seeking behaviors—also known as demand behaviors—start for a variety of reasons, including anxiety and uncertainty. But regardless of why they start, these unwanted behaviors are always maintained by learning.
Take attention-seeking barking. You are on a Zoom meeting with your colleagues and a client. You are taking notes on the computer. Your dog, who usually sleeps during the day, wanders in and lifts your hand from the keyboard to get his ears scratched. You naturally respond, “Not now, Bandit. I am in a meeting with an important client and I need to keep working.”
Bandit responds by nosing your hand and woofing. As soon as he makes noise, you respond by immediately scratching his ears. In the meantime, steam starts to issue from your own.
This routine is repeated a few more times during the meeting. By the end of the workday, Bandit has learned that to get his ears scratched, he simply needs to wait until you are in an online meeting and then come in and bark.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about attention-seeking or demand behaviors is that we ourselves are responsible for (inadvertently) rewarding and reinforcing them.
There is a silver lining to this though: Whatever our dogs learn from us, they can unlearn.
To reduce or eliminate demand or attention-seeking barking (and other annoying learned demand and attention-seeking behaviors) you must ignore the unwanted behavior, reward desirable alternative behaviors, enrich the pet’s environment, establish consistent and clear expectations, and strategically avoid your dog during times that trigger the behavior.
Here’s how to do that.
Ignore unwanted behaviors. This can be very challenging to do. Once you start ignoring, you must persist until your dog’s unwanted behavior has stopped completely. And fair warning: Unwanted behavior will get worse before it gets better. If you reward the behavior with any attention (petting, playing, reprimanding), you reinforce it. So, if needed, leave the room and close the door to escape persistent barking. If your dog steals something, pretend not to notice. If he approaches you with the stolen object, pick up a book or turn away. If the object is something that is not dangerous for him or valuable to you (i.e. a tissue) let him have it and continue to ignore. If it is something that you must get away from him, use a diversion tactic to draw his attention away. For example, ring the doorbell. When he runs to see who is at the door, put him in another room and go pick up the object.
Reward desirable alternative behaviors. If your dog approaches you for attention without barking or waving a stolen object in front of you, tell him to sit. Then pet him or play with him. If he comes to you and sits automatically, praise and pet him or offer to play.
Add (or increase) environmental enrichment. Enriching a dog’s environment may be admittedly more challenging than usual during COVID-19, especially for dogs that used to rely on city walks, playdates, daycare, or training classes for mental stimulation. Walks alone or with other dogs (where you can maintain 6 feet of distance between yourself and other walkers), games such as fetch, food puzzles such as the Kong Wobbler and snuffle mats all add interest to the dog’s day. There are many wonderful positive-reinforcement training classes available online. Dog sports such as Nose Works and Agility have also gone online. And I recommend checking out the VALOR Project’s virtual agility league.
Establish consistent expectations. Create a new routine for your dog and stick to it. Make sure all family members apply these new rules consistently. And be patient. The environmental changes brought by the pandemic are new for your dog, too. If your dog misbehaves, assume that he is not clear about expectations. Try again—and don’t forget to reward good behavior.
Avoid your dog during times that trigger the unwanted behavior. Provide your pup with an alternative activity to occupy him during the times he is most likely to engage in the attention-seeking behavior. For example, just before you start teleconferencing, sprinkle his meal on a Snuffle Mat or stuff it in a Kong and freeze it for him to enjoy in a spot away from you.
Veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil heads the behavior service at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center. She is a 2007 graduate of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
Annoying Dog Behaviors, Blog
Stop Your Dog’s Naughty Behaviors Today!
“I love it when my dog chews my shoes and jumps all over my guests,” said no one ever!
Dog chewing a shoe
Is it that some dogs are just naughtier than others, maybe it’s their breed or gender?
Or could it possibly be that the dog has no understanding of what is expected of them and they don’t know the full set of rules that humans have for them?
Guess what… It’s the last one. Dogs are born without a set of guidelines to follow. It’s up to the human in charge to teach them what we want them to do, what we don’t want them to do and how to stop doing those naughty behaviors in the first place. You know the behaviors I’m talking about; jumping, barking, chewing, digging, accidents and the list goes on.
Dogs will offer up these naughty behaviors for a variety of reasons such as tons of pent up energy (didn’t get enough exercise throughout the day), accidentally praise from a human for a less than desirable behavior (you petting them while they are jumping up to say “hi” ) and most often due to lack of guidance and too much freedom too soon or with out earning it.
Check out the exercise training chart and make sure your dog is getting the right amount
(click on the picture below):
The secret to stopping your dog’s less than desirable bad behaviors is to teach them what you want them to do in the first place. Leaving your dog to attempt to make their own good choices is asking for trouble. Your dog is not capable of choosing the right behaviors solely on their own without any instruction (until they are taught to do so and until they are mature enough).
I’ve worked with hundreds of dog owners who get so frustrated with their dog’s bad behaviors and threaten to get rid of them on the spot if the dog doesn’t start shaping up. The dog is confused and unsure what they should be doing to make their owners happy.
Rules, Guidelines, and Boundaries
In addition to teaching them what you want them to do instead you have to make sure you create a clear set of rules, guidelines, and boundaries from day one. Prevention is far easier, safer and more affordable than correction of the problem. If you can start your training early you can get ahead of the problem behaviors.
It all starts with controlling all aspects of your dog’s life in the beginning. Later down the road when your dog knows what you expect them to do and not do, you can give them more freedom. First, your dog has to prove they are trustworthy, this comes with training. Puppies or even adult dogs new to the home have not earned this trust just yet.
You should be limiting their freedoms. This includes limiting access to items (they like to chew on), access to something that overly excites them like other dogs or even people who want to say “Hi” to them. You can control their food, playtime, and rewards.
Follow the “nothing in life is free” policy. This just means that they need to earn everything they want.
I see it all to often; brand new dog owner brings home a new furry member of the family and is super excited to show the dog their new house. They allow the dog to have full access to all rooms or even an entire downstairs to a home. The dog is overwhelmed and excited as well as unsure what they should be doing in that large of a space. The dog starts to explore and finds all sorts of fun things to chew on, jump on or pee on.
Think of your new dog as a complete stranger you plucked off the street and brought home; you don’t know a darn thing about them and just because they look like a nice person doesn’t mean you’ll give them the code to your safe or allow them to snuggle up next to you at night. You would provide them a safe place to sleep and restrict access to your valuables. The same should apply to dogs as well until they are well trained and have earned freedom.
When you bring home a puppy its the same as bringing home a 18-month-old toddler. You would never allow them to run around unattended, you’d restrict access to dangerous stuff like cleaning supplies, electrical cords, and stairs that they can fall down. Your new dog needs all the guidance you can provide. They need to have rules, guidance, praise, and redirection when they are being naughty so they can start to be the super well-behaved dream dog you’ve always wanted.
Fix it Fast by:
1) Starting your dog with a good training program (teach basic obedience, manners, impulse control)
2) Making sure your dog gets enough exercise daily
3) Following a policy of “nothing in life is free”. This means your dog should be working and earning rewards like treats, praise, and attention as well as access in or out of the crate and house
4) Teach them that “sit is it”. Sit is like a dog saying “please can I have that”. No sit = no attention or no sit = no treats
5) Correct your dog and immediately redirect them to what they should be doing instead, don’t leave them hanging without direction; they’ll keep making the same bad mistakes since they don’t know any better. I correct by making an annoying “eh-eh” buzzer noise. Its loud enough and annoying enough that it usually gets the dogs to stop and look up almost as if to say “why the heck did you do that”. In that split second, I have the chance to redirect them to the appropriate behavior.
You can always check out our free training lessons for more tips and tricks.