How to Fix Common Bad Dog Behaviors

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Find solutions for correcting your dog's common bad behaviors.

It would be ideal if dogs came pre-trained and without behavioral issues, but that isn’t reality. Like children, dogs rely on us to teach them what is acceptable and what is not. The good news is the process of training a dog endears us to them and vice-versa, creating an everlasting bond. In this article, we’ll explore five common behavioral problems that dogs experience and offer advice on how best to address them.  

Problem: Sniffing House Guests

You greet your visitors with a handshake or a hug. In the canine kingdom, one dog “greets” another by sticking his nose in the back end of the other dog and sniffing as a form of communication. This olfactory exchange provides a dog with vital information about their comrade, including age, health condition, the food they recently ate, and even mood. When your dog meets a person, they are engaging in this same ritual.  

Solution:

Teach your dog to welcome two-legged guests in a less-embarrassing manner by teaching him to first “sit” and “stay.” Once he politely sits and offers you his paw to shake, give him a treat. By diverting your dog from sniffing your guests and rewarding him for doing so, you’ll teach him a new, better behavior.  

Problem Behavior: Digging in the Garden

You pride yourself on your green-thumb talents to cultivate tasty tomatoes or beautiful begonias. But your dog thrives on being a furry rototiller by feverishly churning up the soil, uprooting your garden goodies with his digging. 

Digging in the Garden You pride yourself on your green-thumb talents to cultivate tasty tomatoes or beautiful begonias. But your dog thrives on being a furry rototiller by feverishly churning up the soil, uprooting your garden goodies with his digging.

Solution:

Devote a portion of your backyard to satisfy your dog’s desire to dig. This is easily done by buying an inexpensive plastic kiddy pool and filling it with dirt. Now, hide a few dog treats and toys in it and you’ve created a fun, stimulating treasure hunt game for your pup. 

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Problem: Getting into the Garbage Can

As disgusting as it may seem to you, some dogs find “leftovers” in the trash can to be deliciously irresistible. Unfortunately, the contents may cause them digestive upset and diarrhea. Items such as chocolate or household cleaning materials can be toxic and, in some cases, cause death. 

Solution:

If possible, relocate the trash can inside a space with a door that can be closed. For example, in the kitchen, place the garbage can in the pantry or under the kitchen sink and place childproof latches on the door handles. You can also make the trash can less enticing by spraying dog repellent in it or sprinkling baking soda (a taste most dogs detest) inside, which also has the added advantage of being a deodorizer. Another possible measure to take is to invest in a trash can with a sturdy, strong lid that your dog cannot pry open. 

Problem Behavior: Leash Yanking

When it comes to pulling on the leash, it’s not the size of the dog but the size of his determination that matters. His constant pulling on the leash can knock you off your feet and cause injury to his neck if the leash is attached to a collar. 

Solution:

When you take your dog for a walk, bring a small bag of tiny treats with you. Each time your dog stops and heeds your “watch me” cue, dole out a treat. Your goal is to make yourself more important than outside distractions like other people or perhaps a chirping squirrel. In order to have better control, fasten the leash to a harness rather than to your dog’s collar. If your dog starts to yank, stop moving or abruptly begin walking in the opposite direction. Once your dog complies and is walking beside you without pulling, reward him with a treat. 

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Problem: Mouthing and Nipping Hands and Ankles

Puppies use their mouths to explore their environments and to grab your attention. As cute as they are, however, until they pass the puppy milestone of losing their baby teeth, those sharp, tiny teeth can puncture your skin and cause injuries. 

Solution:

From day one, teach your puppy that he needs to sit on cue before he’s allowed to engage in various activities. This includes before getting ready to go for a leashed walk, before beginning a game of fetch, and before greeting visitors to your home. If your puppy’s teeth contact your skin, make a high-pitched yelp to let him know it hurt. This will help teach him to inhibit his bite. Don’t quickly yank your hand from his mouth because this rapid movement can trigger his play drive. Instead, let your hand go limp as you move it away from his mouth. During the teething phase, your puppy should have plenty of pet safe chew toys to satisfy his need to gnaw. 

The key to fixing bad behaviors in your dog is to identify and address them quickly. Use the suggestions and techniques in this article and be consistent in your corrections and approach. Pets Best customers can also receive help with training issues from a 24/7 Pet Helpline as part of their Pets Best member benefits. Remember, a calm, confident, well-behaved dog is only possible with a diligent, patient and communicative owner.

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