Dogs aren’t perfect. Everyone, human and dog alike, is entitled to one or two undesirable quirks, but sometimes dogs develop bad habits that drive their humans crazy. If your dog is one of these, maybe you’re contributing to his bad behavior. Most veterinarians and dog behaviorists agree that almost all undesirable dog behavior is attributable to something the owner did or didn’t do. Often such human behavior is completely unintentional. You don’t realize that you’re teaching your dog to do the very thing(s) you dislike.
The best way to stop unwanted dog behaviors is not to let them develop. Your puppy doesn’t automatically know what to do and how to act; it takes patience to teach him what’s appropriate. If you ignore his bad behavior, laughing it off as something he’ll outgrow, he won’t. Why should he? You’ve let him get away with it so you must think it’s okay.
Puppies and dogs learn best by positive reinforcement. Yelling, slapping, or other harsh discipline methods say more about you than about your dog’s behavior. Such methods not only are mean, they teach your dog to be afraid of you, which is the last thing you want. Here are two of the most common undesirable dog behaviors that you can prevent, or correct if they’ve already become established.
Pulling on The Lead
If you have a larger breed puppy, he’s going to grow up to be a powerful dog who easily can knock you off your feet when you’re out walking and he takes off after a squirrel or stray cat. It’s critical that you teach him at an early age how to properly walk calmly at your side, not out in front of you.
He’ll need to wear a training collar while learning how to walk properly. Metal link collars are ideal, not abusive. They come in various lengths and weights so you can find one just right for him. Measure the circumference of his neck and get one that’s no more than 3 inches longer so it won’t accidentally slip off his head. Chain collars have an O-ring at each end and it’s important to put one on him correctly.
A good way to tell if you’ve put the collar on correctly is to check its position in relation to the lead. The lead and the O-ring to which it’s attached should be on top of his neck, not underneath it, and should be facing in the direction of whichever hand you’re going to hold the lead.
The idea of any walk is to have your dog walking calmly at your side on a loose lead so the collar is comfortably loose around his neck. Make sure you use a lead that’s no more than 6 feet long. Say “Heel” at the beginning of any walk so he’ll learn to associate that word with what he’s supposed to do. He won’t understand it at first and will try to run ahead of you. When he does, the lead becomes taut and the collar becomes uncomfortably tight around his neck. He’ll quickly learn that as soon as he stops moving, the collar loosens up again.
If you prefer not to use a chain collar, use a slip collar instead. It has a buckle closure so you don’t have to worry about correctly slipping a chain collar over his head. Another option is a training harness that tightens around his chest instead of his neck when he pulls.
If you didn’t teach your dog as a puppy how to properly walk at your side, the best way to correct his behavior as an adult is to join an obedience class. You’ll still need a proper collar and lead, but you’ll have an instructor guiding you and your dog will also learn from the other dogs.
Puppies get excited when people come in the door and jump up on them to get near their face and give them puppy kisses. While you might think this is cute and laugh at him, control both yourself and him instead. Don’t reward his bad behavior. Do you really want to teach him that it’s okay to jump? Such whirlwind greetings by an adult dog are dangerous to children, elderly people, someone unsteady on their feet, and anyone carrying groceries, etc.
The best way to teach your puppy not to jump is to teach him how to sit. Say “Sit” whenever you want him to sit. You’ll probably have to gently push his hindquarters down the first few times, but praise him when he does it. If he immediately gets up, repeat the process. Keep this up for at least 15 minutes at a time. When he finally gets the message and sits all by himself, give him a treat as well as praise.
Then start taking him to the front door and saying “Sit.” Once he’s sitting, tell him “Stay” and walk away. Again, he won’t know what you mean at first, so when he gets up to follow you, stop him and repeat the procedure. Be sure to tell him “Okay” when it’s time to get up. Do this as many times as it takes him to learn that staying seated at the door is proper behavior. Let your kids or a neighbor help you with his training by ringing the doorbell. Don’t open the door until he’s calmly sitting and staying.
If you neglected to teach him proper door etiquette as a puppy, start trying to completely ignore his jumping by turning your back. Don’t say anything, laugh, or yell. Remember, even negative attention is better than no attention. If that doesn’t work, grab the door or wall for support and raise one of your knees. He won’t like hitting it and will soon stop jumping. When he does, praise him and give him a treat. Tell your family and frequent guests to follow the same procedure, but of course you’ll be the one providing the dog treats.
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