Over time, many dogs develop bad habits like digging in the yard or chewing on things other than their toys. What many dog owners do not realize is that these so-called “problem behaviors” are often natural behaviors for dogs, only causing a problem when it interferes with the owner’s life. The key to dealing with problem behaviors in dogs lies not in expecting the dog to stop performing the behavior entirely, but to redirect that behavior toward a more appropriate outlet. Below you will find tips for dealing with problem behaviors in general, as well as suggestions for handling specific bad behaviors.
Tips for Dealing with Bad Behavior
You may not realize it, but when your dog develops a problem behavior, it may actually be your fault, not his. Think about this – when your puppy was young, did you encourage him to crawl into your lap or reward him with your attention when he jumped up and pawed at your legs? By rewarding your puppy for this behavior, you essentially taught him that it is okay and that it is an effective way to get what he wants – your attention. Now that your puppy is grown up, he still expects the same results from this type of behavior, but you no longer think it is so cute when your sixty-pound dog jumps up on you. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to curb these kinds of behavior once you have conditioned your dog into doing it.
The key to dealing with problem behaviors is to identify what it is your dog wants and then deny it. For example, if your dog jumps up on you because he wants your attention, you should give him the opposite of what he wants – ignore him until he stops exhibiting the behavior. Then, once your dog calms down, you should start rewarding him for good behavior. In this way, you can condition your dog to stop performing the problem behavior and to start performing the desired behavior.
Dealing with Specific Problems
Below you will find tips for dealing with specific problem behaviors in dogs:
- Chewing on Household Objects – If your dog develops a chewing habit, do not punish him for it and try to get him to stop chewing entirely. Rather, you should redirect this behavior. When you find your dog chewing on something, say “No” in a firm voice and take the object away. Immediately replace it with one of your dog’s toys then reward and praise him when he starts chewing on it instead.
- Digging in the Yard – Rather than trying to keep your dog from digging completely, try creating a special section in your yard where it is okay for him to dig. Bury treats and toys in the yard to entice your dog to use it and, when you find him digging elsewhere, tell him “No” and lead him to his special area.
- Whining Excessively – If your dog is constantly whining at you for attention, you need to teach him that whining will not get him what he wants. When your dog whines, walk out of the room and close the door. Wait for your dog to stop whining, then come in and pet him calmly for a few seconds. Repeat this sequence each time your dog whines and he will eventually learn not to do it.
These are just a few examples of problem behaviors that you can solve by conditioning your dog to exhibit a positive rather than a negative behavior. If your dog develops a problem behavior, you should not try to eliminate it with punishment – just determine what it is that your dog wants and then provide it in an acceptable manner to curb the unwanted behavior.