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Ask the Trainer: Bad dog habits to break

bad dog habits to break

No matter how well-trained they may be, most of our dogs tend to acquire a few bad habits, just like we do. Here are some common issues and bad dog habits to break!


Bad Dog Habit: Barking

All dogs vocalize from time to time. They may bark, whine, or even growl. While some barking is normal for all dogs, excessive barking is most definitely a bad habit many owners would love to get under control. First, it’s important to understand why your dog is barking. He may be alerting you to a knock at the door, looking for attention, or feeling bored. He might also be in pain or anxious about something in the environment, like fireworks or thunderstorms. Make sure you understand why your dog is barking before making this a bad dog habit to break!

If your dog is alerting you to something, like the doorbell, make a point of acknowledging him. Many dogs will stop barking on their own once they know you’re aware of what they’re trying to communicate. As soon as your dog stops barking, pop a tasty treat in his mouth. Teaching your dog the “quiet” command helps with most dogs, especially if they’re just barking because they’re bored or looking for attention. Boredom barkers may also benefit from a correction spray. This tool is a great way to correct several bad habits because of either the scent of the pheromone or the sound the sprayer makes.

If your dog is barking because he’s anxious or afraid, try diverting his attention with a tasty chew or his favorite toy. Providing a safe zone in your home for an anxious dog can also be quite helpful. Crates are excellent for this, but a quiet room in the house will work if a crate isn’t available.


Bad Dog Habit: Chewing

Chewing is another natural behavior for dogs. They’re all wired this way, so we won’t ever be able to completely prevent dogs from chewing. The idea is to teach them to chew on their toys rather than our pillows or new shoes. Providing your pup with lots of his own chew toys is essential in order to break this bad habit. When your dog does pick up something he shouldn’t, tell him “no” and trade for a favorite toy or bone. Praise your dog for chewing on the correct items. Crate your dog when you’re not around to prevent him from getting into things while you’re gone. Dog-proof your house and keep valuable items off the floor and out of your pup’s reach. Finally, provide plenty of exercise to help bored dogs get rid of their excess energy.


Bad Dog Habit: Digging

Most dogs will dig if given the opportunity. Destroyed lawns make this a key bad dog habit to break. Dogs tend to dig out of boredom, to hide possessions, to cool off in the summer, or to escape the yard. Certain dog breeds, like most Terriers, are especially prone to dig because they have been bred to do so. While digging is natural for dogs, nobody wants giant holes decorating the backyard. If this is your dog’s bad habit, keep an eye on him while he’s outside and interrupts digging as quickly as possible. Dogs who really enjoy digging should not be left outside unattended for their own safety. If your dog is digging to relieve boredom, try providing more exercise for him. Finally, if your dog just can’t stop digging, create an area just for this purpose. Sandboxes work especially well. Train your dog to dig in the designated area and nowhere else. Provide an incentive for him to dig in the area you choose by hiding fun treats and/or his favorite toy in the sand, so he’ll naturally want to dig there.


Bad Dog Habit: Jumping on People

Jumping is yet another natural canine behavior that can get out of hand pretty easily. Puppies learn to jump in order to greet their mothers, so this behavior naturally extends to greeting humans later. Jumping can very quickly become an annoying, or even dangerous, behavior. Mostly, dogs jump up out of excitement or in order to get attention. The easiest way to break this bad habit is not to provide attention until your dog stops jumping and relaxes. As soon as he jumps, turn your back on him and walk away. Don’t speak to him or acknowledge him in any way until he stops jumping and relaxes. As soon as he calms down, quietly greet him. Be sure and keep calm yourself while working on this, or you may accidentally cause your dog to get overly excited and jump up again. Encourage all members of your household and any guests to insist on calm behavior as well. Keep your dog on a leash and ask him to sit when answering the door, especially if your pup jumps on visitors.

If you have a die-hard jumper, try a correction spray for quick results. They work on almost every dog, but they should be used in conjunction with the suggestions above if you really want to teach your dog that jumping is not allowed.


Bad Dog Habit: Begging

Begging is a bad habit us humans teach our dogs, usually without meaning to. Feeding our dogs at the table often leads to them expecting leftovers, and some dogs can get rather pushy about this. Teach your dog a “place” command or ask him to lie down during meals. It’s OK for your dog to go cold turkey when it comes to table scraps. He doesn’t need them, and they can cause obesity, so resist those brown eyes and feed low-calorie dog treats for him instead.


Most bad habits our dogs pick up begin as instinctive behaviors that get out of control. Luckily, dogs can easily learn to break them. With patience, consistency, and creativity, our dogs can easily learn to be well-mannered family members!

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