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By AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Hilarie Erb

When trying to change a dog’s behavior, owners often give up after the first unsuccessful attempt.

“I tried that yesterday, and it didn’t work!” is something that the AKC GoodDog Helpline trainers hear often. But sometimes we hear that after a couple of weeks of calm persistence and repetition, they achieve success.

Changing behaviors, such as jumping on people, tugging on walks, barking for attention or counter surfing, can take weeks to months, depending on how self-rewarding the behavior has been to your dog.

To get your puppy or dog used to wearing a collar, for example, introduce it slowly. If she fusses or tries to get it off, don’t give up. Associate it with good things by giving high-value treats while wearing the leash or collar around the house, and after she calms down for a few minutes, take it off. Add time each day and in a week or two, she will be happy about wearing that collar.

If the unwanted behavior is jumping on people, remember that any attention, good or bad, is still attention. After a couple of weeks of being completely ignored by you, your dog will figure out that it isn’t getting him what he wants – your attention.

Behaviors like counter surfing may take longer to stop, and honestly, you may never achieve complete trustworthiness. Because dogs can easily smell that food has been on the counter, they will try for a very long time, just in case a crumb is left up there.

If you can make sure that they never, ever find anything good there, then maybe they will give up. This is not easy to do, especially if you have a family. Sooner or later, someone will leave something within reach, and this will give the dog reason to keep checking. Try to make sure your counter is kept as clean as possible – and put your dog in her crate or in the fenced backyard when you are preparing food.

Remember that you are communicating with an animal that speaks a different language. Your dog wants to understand what you want her to do, but it will take some time and patience to make the objective clear to your canine companion. Be fair to her by giving her plenty of time to understand what you expect from her. Be persistently patient!

For more tips and advice on training your dog, enroll in the AKC GoodDog! Helpline, a seven-day-a-week telephone service staffed by experienced dog trainers:

The Five Commands Every Dog Should Know

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Canine Body Language

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