Training Inappropriate Behaviors

There are very few “bad dogs” in the world, but there are a lot of dogs who don’t understand what humans expect of them. Dogs are dogs, after all, and most perform a number of regular “dog behaviors” as a way to seek out your attention or keep themselves occupied. Teaching your dog appropriate behaviors in a calm, fair manner will go a long way toward building a bond of trust and companionship for years to come. Remember that your dog doesn’t speak English, so rather than yell, scold or punish, teach him what you want him to do instead.  Here are a few tips to adjust common dog behaviors:

Jumping up

This is merely an inappropriate greeting behavior, as your dog is excited to see you. 

Solutions: 

  • Ignore the dog, stand still, fold your arms, and look away. The second your dog’s feet remain on the floor, acknowledge and greet her. If she jumps up again, immediately stand still, fold arms and look away. Repeat every time the dog jumps. NOTE: your family and friends should all follow this training plan as it needs to be consistent! 
  • Teach your dog to sit to be greeted and reward quickly before she jumps. If she jumps, repeat the above. 
  • Keep her on a leash, so you can prevent her from jumping on guests.

Digging 

Usually dogs dig because they are bored or left outside for too long. However, digging is a normal activity for dogs and many of them really enjoy it. 

Solutions: 

  • Control digging by spending more time with your dog, giving him plenty of exercise, keeping him supervised outdoors, and providing him with toys. 
  • Always remember to reward good behavior!
    Direct the behavior by designating an area in the yard where it is acceptable for your dog to dig. Encourage him to use this area. You can buy him a sandbox where he is allowed to dig. 
  • You can also try covering the spot with dirt and  securing chicken wire on top, or placing the dog’s feces in the spot where he likes to dig.

Chewing

Chewing is a normal and necessary behavior to promote healthy teeth and gums. All dogs should have their own chew toys. Avoid cooked bones, poultry bones and rib bones as they tend to splinter and cause choking or intestinal problems. It is recommended that you supervise your dog when he has a chew toy/bone. 

  • Show your dog the appropriate chew toy and make a big fuss over it. Praise your dog when he takes the toy. Sometimes smearing a little peanut butter or cream cheese on the toy can make it more appealing. 
  • Avoid toys with squeakies or pieces that can be swallowed. 
  • If your dog tries to chew on inappropriate items, distract him, and give him an appropriate toy. Praise him and play with him briefly when he chews his toy. 
  • Teach your dog to “drop it” and “leave it” so you can exchange an unsuitable chewy for a more appropriate one. 
  • Prepare your home by putting away items you value; the dog doesn’t know the difference between your things and his toys. 
  • Prepare a puppy-proof room or crate, so he doesn’t have access to unsuitable chew items when you can’t supervise him. 
  • Try to avoid “bitter sprays” or pepper flakes as they can become an “acquired taste” and are not teaching your dog what an appropriate behavior is.

Barking 

Dogs bark to alert you of danger, because they are lonely, bored or anxious and seeking attention, or because they are being teased by an outside influence (i.e., squirrels). 

Solutions: 

  • Keep your dog inside your home when you are not there. 
  • Leave on the radio or TV to mask outside noises. 
  • Ignore your dog if he is barking for attention. 
  • Consistently reward the silent pauses with your attention. Your dog will learn that he is not rewarded for barking and hopefully will stop. 

Please call us for help if your dog appears anxious or stressed or if the barking does not subside.

Bolting through doors/gates

Bolting can be a very serious problem that may show up at your home in the first few days before your new dog realizes she lives with you! 

Solutions: 

  • In the beginning, put your new dog on leash before opening the door, even if you are only going into your fenced yard. This extra control will teach and guide your dog to be calm and learn boundaries. 
  • Teach your dog to “wait” at every door or gate until you release her to go through. Going to a training class is a great way to learn how. 

If she escapes, don’t run directly after her as this can often be seen as a game, and she probably will run away faster! Instead, try turning around, calling her happily and running away at an angle and the dog may turn around and chase you safely home. If your dog approaches you, try crouching down and offering a cookie to lure the dog to you. Talk in a “happy” voice to attract your dog. 

Home-alone anxiety 

Usually within 30 minutes of the owner departing, the dog attempts to get out to find his owner. Tremendous damage can be done to door frames, drapes, windowsills, furniture, blinds, etc. Dogs can injure themselves in their panic. Putting a dog in a crate or kennel can increase the anxiety, and they can break their teeth and rip out their nails in a frantic effort to get out. Food is rarely a distraction. Most dogs will be too frantic to even notice treats. The dog also may urinate and defecate because of his anxiety. 

The dog is not being willfully destructive or malicious. Punishing the dog does no good as it only confuses your already anxious and distraught pet. Usually the dog is extremely affectionate, calm and loving when in the presence of his owner. The attachment formed is very strong, so much so that the dog feels intense panic when the owner leaves, feeling unable to cope with being left alone. 

What can you do?

Please consult a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to obtain a proper diagnosis and for more information on this problem. Treating your dog with medication may be necessary to take the edge off his anxiety and enable you to implement a behavior modification training program. 

If the anxiety is mild, please ask for help by calling our Behavior Helpline @ (630)323-5637 as there are many more things we can suggest to help you and your new dog.

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