Let’s face it, not all of your dogs’ actions are always cute – correcting dog behavior may seem extra challenging if you don’t know how to differentiate normal habits from unusual ones. There are certain things they do that can be a nuisance, such as chasing and jumping on people, chewing on objects (particularly your favorite pair of shoes), leash pulling, whining, and more.
But you must first be aware that there are some factors that influence how your dogs act around you and other people, such as their breed, living conditions, and age. Puppies and elderly dogs are a bit harder to deal with in terms of training and behavior correction because of either too much playfulness or stubbornness.
One thing to also keep in mind is that as a general rule, dogs don’t usually respond well to intimidation as a way of disciplining them. If anything, it could just trigger their aggression, making it more difficult for you to manage their moods. Resorting to intimidation to correct their mistakes may have a negative effect on your relationship with them, too.
So just how and when should we start controlling unwanted behavior of our dogs? Here is a guide to help you.
ADDRESSING YOUR DOG’S BAD HABITS
1. Get them moving.
Letting your dogs engage in daily physical activities ensures that their energy is spent on exercise, and not on destroying stuff and behaving badly. Young dogs typically have higher energy levels compared to older ones, so they must be brought out for more exercise.
2. Reward their good behavior.
If at any time your dog does a good deed, using positive reinforcement would go a long way. You may pet, praise, or give them treats every time they exhibit desirable behavior or when they are able to follow your instructions.
3. Figure out what may be causing bad behaviors.
Does getting into an open closet help your dog relax? Does your reaction when your dog jumps on you give them a signal that it’s time to play? Controlling unwanted habits also means finding out what might be triggering your dog to do these actions so you can pay better attention to what they really need.
Continue regular practice and reinforcement until you can see your dog’s behavioral patterns improve. Consistent training also helps you form a more solid bond with them so they could learn to trust and obey you more.
CORRECTING SPECIFIC HABITS
Give your dog an object that is more appropriate for him to chew, and avoid offering household items that he shouldn’t be munching on such as shoes, clothes, and cords. Otherwise, he’ll think it’s okay for him to chew on just about anything he can put his paws on – don’t forget to keep your stuff out of their reach.
Of course, it is perfectly normal for all dogs to bark, but not excessively. There are various reasons as to why they bark – when they see a visitor or another dog for the first time, when they’re excited, or even when they’re bored. You may train them to respond to cues like “quiet”, “shh”, or “enough”; remember to also be calm when you need to use these words to stop them from barking. Another way is to refuse to give him your full attention when he barks at you to ask for it, until he quiets down.
3. Leash Pulling
While walking your dog on a leash, it may be helpful to offer him treats or use phrases like “good dog” and “nice job” as positive reinforcements for doing well. It’s important to not pull on the leash as your dog might resist and also pull himself farther from you. If he does, stop walking and instruct him to go back to your side. Advise the same to other people who wish to walk your dog.
This is one common dog behavior that owners usually want to correct. Dogs chase running people or flying objects because of their predatory instinct; their brains are biologically wired to go in pursuit of moving things. An option would be to put your dog in a leash when outdoors, and to teach your dog to only come when they are called. Pay attention to triggers such as cyclists, joggers, or other pets running around in your neighborhood and use a whistle to catch your dog’s attention anytime.
WHEN TO SEE A DOG BEHAVIOR SPECIALIST
While it’s normal for dogs to exhibit these habits once or twice, repeatedly doing these actions is a red flag and calls for a consultation with a dog behavior specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. Dog behavior specialists and vets can offer professional advice if your dogs don’t respond to simple training or you suspect that they have underlying health issues influencing their behavior.
Correcting dog behavior, when done right, can work wonders to how your dog interacts with and thrives in the environment he’s in. Remember that eliminating their bad habits takes time, so try to be more patient and understanding. After all, you’ll both reap the benefits in the end!