Nip It in the Bud
5 Problem Dog Behaviours You Should Stop Now
You visit your friend and her young dog practically mauls you in greeting as you walk in the door. He’s friendly—to the point where you’re left black and blue. “He’s just a puppy,” your friend shrugs. He may be a puppy, but he’s going to end up being a big dog with bigger issues if your friend doesn’t act soon.
Do you notice early signs of problem behaviours in your own dog? Maybe your puppy likes to chase the kids in the back yard, and now that he’s getting bigger he occasionally knocks them down. Maybe your dog has started growling at you when you approach his food bowl. Or maybe it’s just something annoying, like your dog jumping on the couch on top of you when you’re sipping coffee.
While we all wish canine problem behaviours would just go away on their own, this rarely happens. Problem behaviours start small and grow with time. Ideally, the best time to address a problem is when it starts. You’ve heard of the phrase, “Practice makes perfect?” Well, the longer your dog practices a behaviour, the better he gets at it. Waiting too long to address an issue will make it harder to fix later. Here are five problem behaviours you need to nip in the bud right away.
1) Jumping for Attention
Consequence of Waiting to Address: A dog that always jumps on people. If you don’t mind your dog jumping on you, then that’s ok. Do you have anyone else in your life for whom it may be an issue? For example, do you have friends who visit who have little kids? Or do you have elderly parents or grandparents who visit? If you don’t want your dog jumping on them, then you need to train your dog not to jump on people. (If you don’t have anyone like that who will be around your dog, then you may not mind the jumping.)
The best way to eliminate jumping in your dog is to only pet him while he remains sitting. If he’s not sitting, no petting. For everyone. If you push him off, or yell at him, or even give him eye contact, you’re giving him attention for jumping. Teach your dog to sit. Once he’s learned this behaviour, make sitting the best thing in your dog’s life. Give him treats for sitting. Cue him to sit before you attach his leash and take his leash off. Cue him to sit for his food. Cue him to sit before you throw the ball for him. Make sit so much a part of his daily routine that sitting becomes his new habit, not jumping.
2) Getting Comfy on the Couch
Consequence of Waiting to Address: A dog that will always jump on the couch. If you don’t mind, skip this section! Allowing dogs on the couch is a personal decision. If you don’t care, and your dog does not have aggression issues, it’s fine if you let your dog up on the furniture. Keep in mind, though, other people in your life may not feel the same way. If you don’t mind your dog curling up with you on the couch at any time, but would be mortified if your Labrador jumped on your mom’s lap, then teach your dog not to jump on the couch unless he gets permission.
Solving this issue is relatively straightforward. Every time your dog gets up on the couch, gently take his collar and get him off. Every single time. Don’t give him access to the couch when you are not there, as you won’t be there to correct the behaviour. Don’t tell him “off” and then give him a treat, or you’re paying him for jumping on the couch in the first place.
If you want to allow your dog to jump on the couch only with permission, cue him to sit next to the couch. Then pat the couch with your hand, encouraging him to jump up. When he jumps up, praise him and give him a treat. If he jumps up without sitting first and getting your hand pat signal, gently take him off.
3) This Couch is Delicious! And Your Shoes, this Magazine, that Charger Cord…
Consequence of Waiting to Address: A dog that chews a path of destruction through your home. Dogs will put practically anything in their mouths. Your dog could easily swallow something that can hurt or even kill him. Train your dog what items are ok for chomping, and which are off limits.
Solving this issue requires supervision. When your dog chews on something he shouldn’t, say “No” and redirect him to an appropriate toy. If you don’t trust your dog to keep his teeth on the right toys when you’re not watching him, then he needs to be crated. If your dog picks up a toy, be sure to praise him for making a good choice.
4) Kids Are Fun to Chase
Consequence of Waiting to Address: An injured child. Where it might be ok to tackle another dog in a game of tag, it’s not ok for a dog to chase a child and topple her to the ground.
If your dog loves to run, give him a healthy outlet. Play fetch. Play recall games across the yard with family members taking turns calling him so he can run to them for treats. Consider getting a flirt pole toy—a long pole with a cord that has a toy attached to it. Teach your dog to chase the toy and not your kids. If he does chase a child, say “No!” and immediately remove him from the yard. Don’t wait until a child gets hurt. Be consistent and remove him at the first offence.
5) Growling Over the Food Bowl
Consequence of Waiting to Address: A dog that bites. Don’t think your dog “would never bite,” because that’s just not realistic. A growl is a warning. Your dog is telling you he doesn’t like you near his food bowl. If you ignore this warning, he could escalate.
With any signs of aggression, consider getting
professional help from a reward-based trainer. If this behaviour has just started and your dog has not yet bitten, then start with an empty food bowl. Gradually drop food in the bowl for his entire meal so he learns your hands coming towards his bowl are positive. Do not stick your hands in his bowl, or take the food away from him intermittently, or pet him while he’s eating. This is just annoying to your dog and can increase aggression. If your dog continues to growl at you during this exercise, stop and get professional help. For more specifics on how to address resource guarding, go to moderndogmagazine.com/resourceguarding.