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.