Curb Bad Dog Behavior
Learn how to teach your bad dog new behavior modification tricks.
Your pet is one of your best friends, your silent confidant, the one consistent in your life and yet, he's driving you crazy with his incessant licking, barking and jumping on company. What happens when your most loyal friend gets on your nerves?
Dogs have one major goal in mind and that is to please you. So take heart and realize that your dog isn't acting out just to annoy you. When firm guidelines haven't been set, your dog simply doesn't understand the difference between acceptable and non-acceptable behavior. The good news: there are ways to change this.
So What's the Problem?
Every dog is different and every dog misbehaves in its own unique way. Before attempting to curb bothersome behavior, it's a good idea to figure out why it is your dog is exhibiting bad manners. The most common reasons for problem behavior include:
Fear: Dogs that are fearful will bark, bite, withdraw and lunge at objects and people.
Anxiety: Anxiety triggers nervous behavior like self-chewing, moping, hiding, chewing on objects and depression.
Boredom: Bored dogs tend to get into everything. Boredom in dogs is exhibited by chewing, barking, and whining.
Now that you know why your dog is acting the way he is, what can you do about it? Veterinarians recommend behavior modification techniques, not unlike those psychologists practice with their patients. Because your dog often doesn't realize he's doing wrong, it's a good idea to take things slowly and praise him for even the smallest examples of positive behavior.
Stop the Begging!
Dogs beg for food either because they're hungry, you've fed them table scraps in the past or because they just haven't been taught that it's not okay. You can teach your dog to refrain from begging by:
1. Feeding him first. A dog that is full generally won't sit at the kitchen table waiting for scraps.
2. Don't give in. Your dog may have the saddest eyes in the world, but the moment you give in, you're telling him it's acceptable to beg.
3. Use your voice. Giving your dog a firm "no," is a good way to begin teaching him right from wrong. If your dog does not respond to a "no" command, remove him from the eating area and lock him in a separate room until the meal is finished. Your dog will eventually make the connection that if he doesn't beg, he doesn't have to leave you.
4. Leftover Feeding Last. It's okay to give you dog leftovers, but don't dole them out at the kitchen table. When you've finished eating, get up and place the food in their bowls.
There are many pet owners that don't want their animal on certain pieces of furniture. If this includes you, remember that you'll have to show your pet where they are allowed to sit. Don't expect him to understand. If your pet knows, but still acts out, try:
1. Using Tape: This works great for dogs who hop up on counter tops or furniture. Place some sticky tape along the edge of the furniture or counter top. Dogs hate the sensation of their paws getting stuck, so this is almost always a one shot cure.
2. The Down Command: Teach your dog the meaning of the word "down" and enforce it.
Dogs are born chewers. The instinct comes so naturally that your pet may not even be aware that gnawing through the couch cushions will upset you. Curb inappropriate chewing by:
1. Teaching the "no" command. You can never underestimate the simple fact that your dog just doesn't know right from wrong. It's your responsibility to guide your pet.
2. New Toys. Many dogs chew out of extreme boredom. If you're at work or in school all day, your dog is home alone with eight hours to fill. A new toy (or at least rotating old ones) can often help your pet to entertain himself while you are away. Make the toys as appealing as possible. Dipping a plastic chew toy in beef broth turns the toy into a new treat. Smearing peanut butter on a piece of rawhide also works wonders.
3. Reach for the Hot Sauce. If your dog still isn't responding, try putting hot pepper sauce around the area you want your dog to stay away from. Tabasco sauce wipes easily off almost everything and one taste is all your dog needs to learn his lesson. There are also commercial "bitter apple" sprays you can purchase that have the same end result.
4. Guard your valuables. Putting your shoes away in a closet and keeping the house picked up will also deter your dog. Dogs are more likely to chew on items which have been sitting out in "their space" than they are to go digging for your most expensive pumps.
Dogs jump up on people because they're excited, they want to say 'hello' or they feel the need to show dominance. Stop hazardous jumping by:
1. Never letting him start. If you're a puppy owner, you have the easiest job of all. Just don't ever let him jump. Follow every jump up with the firm command, "off."
2. Mellow out. If your dogs is in the bad practice of jumping on you when you arrive home at night, begin ignoring him. Walk in, say 'hello' quietly and go about your business. The more you excite your dog, the more you show him it's acceptable to jump up
3. The Down Word. Extending an open faced palm toward your dog and firmly saying "down," will help your dog to realize his guidelines. Older dogs will take longer to respond to this, but most veterinarians agree that this command is one your dog needs to know, no matter what his age.
Dogs need to lick themselves for hygiene puposes, but too much self-licking can cause hair loss, infection and skin damage. The easiest way to end a licking problem is to figure out why your dog is doing it. Many dogs lick themselves excessively when they suffer from a food or environmental allergy. If licking is happening for other reasons, reach for the bitters. Placing something spicy or sour on your dogs paws (or other lickable areas) will discourage licking, as well. If your dog is licking out of boredom, try a walk, a trip to the park or a few minutes of playtime.
Excessive barking is the most common complaint from dog owners. Often, dogs bark to warn you of something they fear; a guest arriving at the door, a stray animal outside or loud noises they don't understand. Dogs also bark when excited. A firm, "no" is the easiest way to curb barking. Locking the dog up in a separate room until they've calmed also works well. For extra stubborn dogs, place some coins inside an aluminum soda can and tape the opening shut. When your dog barks, shake the can. After a few rounds of this, your dog will understand that when the can is being shaken, he's doing something wrong.
The easiest way to teach your dog new and better behaviors is to take it slow. Praise your pet for each small step he makes. Just like you, your dog responds better to positive reinforcement.