How To Curb Unwanted Dog Behaviors
When trying to change a dog’s behavior, owners often give up after the first unsuccessful attempt.
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.
To stop bad behaviors like this, it’s important to consider how you respond to the bad behavior. If you yell at your dog when he jumps on people, you are letting him know his bad behavior paid off.
Think about what your dog is trying to accomplish when he’s misbehaving and don’t allow him to be rewarded for it. Instead, give him an opportunity to succeed (for example, tell the begging dog to go to his place and lie down, and give him a treat when he does).
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. To help improve your dog’s behavior, training is key. Try to introduce a new command a week, and practice old ones with him. Besides being able to understand what you want him to do, the mental work involved in him learning commands will tire him out, making him less likely to misbehave.
Exercise is another important factor in dog behavior. 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 opportunities to use up all his energy. Instead, the excess will go into chewing your shoes, stealing your food, or scratching your walls. As the old saying goes, “A tired dog is a good dog.”
In the end, your dog wants to understand what you want him to do, but it will take some time and patience to make your objectives clear to your canine companion.
Be fair to him by giving him plenty of time to understand what you expect from him. Be consistent and persistently patient!