What Bad Habit of Their Dogs Would Dog Owners Most Like to Stop?
No one’s perfect, and that goes for our dogs, too.
In spite of all the training, practicing, and positive reinforcing, sometimes our dogs pick up a few not-so-great habits.
When AKC polled its members, it found that the most common bad habit pet owners would like to resolve in their dogs is barking when excited or nervous. Forty-two percent of responders picked this noisy nuisance as their top concern when it comes to their pet’s behavior.
Others high on the list included destroying furniture and décor (23 percent), whining to get attention (19 percent), and raiding the trash (16 percent).
So what do all of these behaviors have in common? They’re sometimes attention-seeking, typically seen in dogs who aren’t getting enough physical and/or mental stimulation.
Two of these behaviors are easier to resolve because the “reward” of the behavior comes from you. When a dog barks or whines and you touch him and show him positive or negative (e.g., “Stop it!”) attention, you’re showing him his big mouth is paying off. Ignore the dog when he displays this behavior, and you may see it disappear.
Conversely, the other two behaviors, destroying furniture and raiding the trash, are self-rewarding. These are more difficult to stop. A dog-training expert once described this type of behavior similar to a cigarette smoker who ducks into a room to enjoy a cigarette. Your not being there to intervene and prevent the person from enjoying his smoke in peace is a reward in itself. The same goes for a dog digging into a delectable waste bin of scraps or chewing up that new Restoration Hardware coffee table. And don’t bother yelling at him after the fact. Dogs don’t associate past behaviors with later punishment.
The best solution then? Remove the opportunity. Crating dogs is a beneficial (not cruel, as some naysayers will argue) way of confining a dog and giving him a smaller place to “protect,” which can help with minor anxiety problems. Note that some of these behaviors may indicate a more serious problem, like separation anxiety. Speak to your veterinarian about all behavior problems in case there is a need for medical intervention or assessment by a dog behavior expert.
Also, the AKC’s GoodDog! Helpline can be useful in assisting owners with common training problems.
Here is a podcast from the AKC Canine Health Foundation on separation anxiety:
5 Things You’re Doing to Make Your Dog Misbehave