Your dog pulls you down the street, he eats the garbage, he chews through your things when you are out. When you are having dinner he tries to take things from the table. You let him out when you get home but he just goes to the bathroom in the house once you let him in. If you let him off the leash he may or may not come back. Sound familiar?
These are all very common behavioural issues and unfortunately in some cases, it is your fault. Now there is an exception to every rule, and some behavioural issues will need to be adjusted by a professional. However there are lots of things you can do in the home first before we consider that… Let’s break down each of the common issues and talk about some solutions
Walking on a leash. I’m sure you have heard at one point or another the term ‘pack animal’. Your dog is a pack animal, and as such, they need to know who is boss at all times. That being said the extent that this is needed differs from each breed. For example, a toy poodle needs to know who is the boss, and may need a stern tone from time to time, however not nearly as much as a mastiff.
Puppies, when it comes to teaching your dog to walk on a leash, it really is best to start early when they are puppies and create a strong positive experience. You will also want it to be consistent so it becomes a routine. When I’m teaching a puppy to walk on a leash it takes a lot of patience, and treats. As they learn to walk on a leash, always reward them with praise and treats when they walk nicely for a stretch of time, even if that stretch is just 4-5 houses down. I use Zukes, they come in many flavor’s, and they are super small, great for training. This rewarding will help the process along.
As the walking becomes better, start to add more challenging things. For example every time you come to a cross street, have them stop and sit. Use the words ‘stop’, and ‘sit’ when you are giving direction. Use these words every time, and every time the puppy does it right, reward them.
I know I drew a picture of a perfect scenario. I know this is not always the case. For the more difficult puppy that wants to take the leash from you and pull you down the street, much more patience and consistency is required. Every time the puppy pulls, call him back to you and have him ‘heel’ and ‘sit’ (use the leash to force him back if you have too). Again use these commands consistently. I know your puppy won’t just sit and heel, you will have to show him what you want from him, also using the commands you want him to associate that particular behaviour too. Once the puppy responds give him a treat. Then continue the walk, if he starts to run off again and grab the leash and be a little monster, start the process again. Be firm and consistent and always reward good behaviours with lots of treats and praise. Trust me when I tell you, your puppy much rather you be giving him cuddles and treats then yelling and screaming. As you are consistent with the training, he will learn that doing what you want him to equal lots of cuddles and treats… Lots of patience and consistency will make all the difference.
The Older Puppy, I use the term older puppy, because most dogs are puppies until they are about 2. That is when they stop growing and start to calm down a bit. This does vary by breed, but it is a good guideline for you where you are thinking of getting a new dog. For the older puppy that challenges are a lot greater, the dog is settling into their surroundings with their good or bad behaviour. One thing to remember is that it isn’t too late to fix bad habits.
The process for an older puppy is very similar to the ones for the difficult puppy. You will have to be stern and very consistent. You will also have to use lots of good praise and treats as leverage when they do good things. The biggest challenge at this stage is that your dog may start to challenge your authority, they are doing this to claim their throne as head of the house.. YOU CAN NOT LET THIS HAPPEN… letting your dog run your house will mean that it will run your life. This is a dangerous thing for many larger breeds, and a very challenging thing across the board.
If you have an older puppy heading into adult hood with bad walking habits, it means they may not be getting the walks they need because you are tired of the hassle, creating a negative circle, as the puppy has lots of pent-up energy and you are just frustrated with everything they do… Break the cycle, start in your yard if you don’t want to take chances with potential distraction from an outdoor walk. Walk them along the fence line. Stopping every once in a while giving ‘stop’, ‘heel’, and ‘sit’ commands, rewarding every good behavior with treats and praise. When you start to feel better about the walking behaviours you can start to do short walks out front, monitoring possible distractions and continuing the same type of routine as you did in the yard. If you are finding that your dig is still super hyper on the leash, maybe try playing fetch in the yard for a bit first, get some of that pent-up energy put before starting the walk.
I know the idea of playing fetch with your dog before walking them is silly, but remember the walk at this point is all about training, and not so much about the walking to burn off energy yet. Dogs always respond better to training when they get enough exercise. Once you start to see consistent behaviour from your dog you can start to cut off play time before the walk and use the walk as the exercise. The positive to having to go through the process, that while you are doing it you are building a closer bond between you and your dog. They will start to respect you are their leader more and will overall become a better member of your home.
Chewing Things While Your Out, This behaviour is also known as separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is something many dogs suffer from. A lot of the time we have actually taught our dogs to act this way, by the way we leave them when we go out. A common error is to give them lots of attention and cuddles right before you leave, and then have them follow you to the door before you close it on them and go to work. This actually stresses out your dog. The behaviour your dog exhibits before you leave your home is the one they will carry all day while you are gone. If you are getting them excited or filling them with praises, love and cuddles they want more and want to follow you, when you close the door they stress out because they can’t get to you, and they carry that stress the entire time your gone.
Stress is a very destructive emotion. When your dog is stressed they may resort to chewing to work out their anxiety. Unfortunately they never seem to chew on just their toys, they begin to chew on the furniture and other items in the household they are not suppose too. The anxiety can also be caused by insecurities, some dogs get very emotionally attached to their owners a fret all day while they are at work
There is a way to correct this, and a way to avoid it completely….
Avoiding this behaviours starts from an early age. I have a mastiff, they are known to suffer from separation anxiety, knowing this I added training to help him cope with me being away as a puppy. To do this I would leave the house without saying bye, I would just walk out and close the door. I could hear him cry, but I would go out to my car and wait for a few minutes before I would come back in. When I did I ignored him, when he calmed down I would then give him lots of praise and cuddles. I would do the same things when I took him for car rides, I would say nothing when I would leave, and nothing when I came back to the car. He of course was super excited to see me, I would ignore him, and as soon as he calmed down, I would acknowledge him and pat him. By starting with short leaves, your dog starts to learn that you will always come back..
Crate training is a great thing, using a crate to offer your pup their own personal space is a great tool to train and help them relax while away from work. Bourbon my pup loves his crate so much that he lays in it on his own sometimes when he wants to be on his own. This is so big, when he was a puppy I would make sure everything about the crate was a positive experience. As an almost adult he is more them happy to lay in his crate while I am at work. It is safer for him, because he doesn’t get into anything while I’m away, and it’s less stress for me because I know he is safe. The crate is part of his routine. In the morning, he goes out, has his breakfast, some play time, and when he sees me bring my stuff at the front door he knows I’m leaving for work soon and we will go to his crate on his own and lay down. I give him some treats before I lock the door and tell him he’s a good boy. I finish packing my things up and off I go…
If crate training is not for you, or it may too late to introduce it we can go into how to solve the separation anxiety. Aside from the tricks I already mentioned, another great things is lots and lots of exercise. If you can give your dog a good walk before you have to leave in the morning, your dog is a lot more likely to relax while you are at work. Routine is so so important, if they know you get up around the same time every day, and they go for their walk, and they have their breakfast, have some quiet time and then you go to work… They will start to adapt to the routine and feel much more relaxed while you are away. Routine with my pup has made every aspect of the training so much more manageable.
Taking Food From The Table, is a jealous behaviour, this can happen when they feel left out, or if they are spoiled in other aspects of their lives and feel entitled to eat from the table. This is when your dog is the boss of you. The number one mistake dog owners make when it comes to meal time is giving your dogs food from the table. Doing this even just once opens up a whole can of worms you can’t always put back.
Our food is not good for them, many dogs can’t digest it properly and it can cause major problems. If you have unknowingly created this bad habit it is a great challenge to change it. Dogs love to eat things they usually don’t get to, if they are getting table scraps they might look at it as getting a treat making it harder to get them out of the behaviour. Consistency and positive reinforcement is a way to attempt to curve this… No more table scraps, have the dog sit and stay away from the table, and reward his good behaviour with his own treats after supper time is over. Very consistent training is required to change this behaviour.
Using Your Home As A Toilet, this behaviour can stem from separation anxiety, it can also be a health issue. Sometimes it i just because you changed their routines. A lot of the time this behaviour can be fixed by really thinking of why it is happening and changing it…
Puppies, house training is something we all want to do super fast. Crate training can help with this if you wanted to take that route.. Pee pads are great! I have used them for all my puppies. I typically have one set up by the back door in case the accident it timing, and because I want them to be used to going to one area to head out to do their business. Again lots of treats and lots of praise is good… Again the routine comes into play, after the puppy plays, let him out, after the puppy eats, about 10min later let him out, when you get up in the morning let him out, before bed at night let him out. The puppy will grow to recognize this is the bathroom times and will respond positively to that. Eventually they will grasp the concept and start to tell you when they have to go out to pee.
Sometimes the bathroom issues stem from a move or change in the routines in the house. Dogs really do fall into a routine, they like the routine, they feel confident in it. When it changes there is usually an adjustment period. Sometimes it may feel like they are doing it on purpose, they just might be. Yes your dog can throw a temper tantrum. Patience and reinforcing a new routine will help curve the problem.
In older dogs a lot of the time it can be related to medical issues, or simply they can’t hold it anymore. Pee pads are great in the case, keeps the messes in one spot. And just to be sure to always check with your vet if you are concerned.
Once They Are Out They Are Never Coming Back, there is nothing worse than taking your dog to a park, letting them off a leash and then chasing them down the street. Or not closing the front door all the way and them chasing someone down walking by. Even worse, when you call them they just look at you and keep going. DO NOT scold them after using their command ‘come’ and they finally do.. You are actually teaching them that when they do come to you, you are mad at them.
Bring training back into the yard. It is a safe and fenced area for you to work with your pup. Practice ‘come’, ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ with them, and remember lots of treats and positive reinforcement. Then try things like telling them to ‘stay’ when you throw their favourite ball, and then once it hits the ground tell them it’s ok to go.. This type of training reinforces that you are the boss, and that you tell them when they can do things. This will not be an overnight fix. When a dog is challenging your authority by not listening it can me a phase that lasts months. Be patient and consistent and you will se break throughs….
I hope I covered most of what you were concerned about. I will be releasing an ebook on this site shortly with many more step by step training tool and ideas for you, to help fix many of the common behavioural problems.
If there is anything you need help with specifically, or you have a great training story, please share your experiences in a comment below…