Dog Behavior Problems

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Dog Behavior Problems
Not all dog behavior is bad, but that doesn't mean that you can't train your dog to be a proper pup.

Puppy dog eyes are hard to resist even when your puppy is misbehaving. This may be the key to how puppies get away with bad puppy behavior. It’s almost impossible to ignore those puppy eyes. Despite this, it’s important to curb behaviors early to avoid bad puppy behavior growing in to bad dog behavior.

Training Goals

Just as every dog is unique and has its own personality, each dog owner will have a different opinion as to what dog behavior is considered “bad.” The first step in dog training is to determine what your goals are and what behaviors are acceptable. These goals will depend on many factors, but for the most part, dogs can be trained to ensure a happy home for everyone.

Normal Dog Behavior

Dog training requires patience, consistency and persistence. Be realistic with your expectations and goals. This will ensure that both you and your dog find the best habits and behavior for your life together. Many behaviors such as barking, digging, chewing and jumping on you are considered problems, but are simply natural dog behaviors. It’s unlikely that you will be able to extinguish natural dog behavior, but you can reasonably modify behavior and train your dog to behave, even if it is normal dog behavior. For example, all dogs bark; but you can teach your dog to stop barking after two or three barks by giving a command to be quiet. A well-trained dog will stop barking upon your request. Of course, this will depend on the reason for the barking in the first place and you should be aware of why your dog barks and what triggers the barking. That will allow you to curb the barking when appropriate. It will also teach you which situations will be harder to manage, such as when your dog is in fear.

Keep your dog's age in mind when considering their training.

Puppies vs. Older Dogs

For the most part, training a puppy is no different than training an older dog and contrary to popular belief, old dogs can learn new tricks. Training your puppy or dog can be challenging, but with patience, your pet should be able to learn what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not. Try to think of training your dog as an activity you can do together. View it as learning rather than a chore. Most professional trainers would agree that yelling is not the best way to train a dog. Dogs appreciate and respond to a positive learning environment. Stay positive and keep the mood playful.

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Puppies can start formal training by the age of six months. Older dogs should begin training as soon as welcomed in to the home. Obviously, puppies have a lot of energy and short attention spans which can make training challenging. On the other hand, puppies are very curious, enjoy positive reinforcement and are fast learners for the most part. Training an older dog, however, requires some consideration of the dog’s physical and mental capabilities. Always consider your dog’s overall health when setting goals and be sure to recognize your dog’s past habits and behavior. Some older dogs will have to unlearn certain behaviors before introducing new ones.

Dog Training Methods

There are a variety of dog training methods and the best method will depend on the personalities of each owner and pet. Chose a method that feels natural and comfortable to you and your dog. Many resources are available on-line or in books. In the broadest sense, training methods are either reward-based or obedience-based. Reward-based training uses positive reinforcement to encourage the dog’s natural behavior. An obedience-based method encourages the owner to establish a hierarchy with the owner occupying the role of alpha-dog. Various hybrid methods use elements of both or other methods altogether. Do some research to find the best method for you and your dog.

Communicating with Your Dog

Regardless of the method, training your dog is all about learning how to communicate better. For example, most puppies will nip at you, dig, jump on you, bark and chew things up. Much of this behavior is simply normal puppy behavior, so the goal of training is to effectively communicate to your puppy to stop or re-direct the behavior. Remember that to successfully train a dog, all the two-legged members of the household must be consistent. That means identifying acceptable behaviors and providing consistent communication. All dogs will find it difficult to learn if the rules are not clearly and consistently enforced.

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Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior

Also, recognize the reason for the puppy’s behavior. Nipping is a normal behavior for all puppies because they are curious and exploring with their mouths. Puppies don’t realize how sharp their teeth are and how painful their nipping can be. Most experienced dog trainers recommend the following steps to train your puppy to stop nipping at you: as soon as your puppy nips at you, let out a “cry” so that the puppy realizes that you are hurt. Then stop the playtime and walk away. This teaches the puppy that nipping at you will have negative consequences.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Showing your puppy that there are consequences to their behavior is a fundamental goal of training. This includes both positive and negative consequences to reinforce behavior. Many trainers, however, avoid the use of negative consequences because some argue that punishment-based training is stressful for the dog and better results are gained through positive reinforcement. But the same training tips that are considered negative reinforcement can be easily modified if you are more comfortable with positive reinforcement. For example, instead of stopping playtime after your puppy nips at you as a negative reinforcement, you can give a verbal command to stop nipping and when the puppy stops, provide a positive reinforcement such as praise or a warm pat on the head.

Training Tips

As you train your puppy or dog, be aware of how your pet is responding and look for signs of stress. Some dogs, even puppies, can be over stimulated which can result in bad dog behavior such as nipping, chewing, excessive barking and running around uncontrollably. Try not to overstimulate your dog, particularly puppies. Allowing your dog to run wild outdoors can cause over-stimulation and can result in poor behavior inside the house. Similarly, avoid overloading your dog with too many new behaviors or tricks at once. Work steadily at a pace that is reasonable for both you and your pet.

Redirecting your dog can help curb negative behaviors.

Redirecting Bad Dog Behavior

Training requires an investment of time and should be done every day. Realistically, you may be training your dog several times a day since one part of training is to redirect the dog when bad behavior is observed. For example, most dogs like to dig, but you may not want the dog to dig in certain areas of your yard or garden. The best way to change your dog’s behavior is to redirect your dog when you observe digging that is causing damage to your yard. By redirecting your dog to an area where digging is permitted, your dog will eventually understand that digging is okay in that area. Other ways to discourage digging are to make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. This is because digging is often a dog’s natural way of staying active. Of course, some breeds are more prone to digging and it may be more difficult to curb that behavior.

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Consult a Professional

Remember that training a dog often means trying to eliminate or curb behavior that a dog does instinctively. Be realistic and know what type of behavior is common for particular breeds. You may need to consult a professional trainer if you are unable to spend the time necessary to properly train your dog. For the most part, dog issues such as excessive barking, begging for food, jumping on people and chewing can be controlled with training. However, if you are not getting results despite providing consistent and frequent training, you should consult a professional who can either come to your home and train your dog or try a doggy training course.

Just as each dog is unique, each family is unique as well. When choosing a dog, look for breeds that fit your family’s lifestyle to ensure a good match. Training your dog to be well behaved is important to your dog as well as your family. Dogs are naturally curious, enjoy learning and always want to please. More importantly, your dog is part of your family and that means your dog’s behavior has an impact on the entire family. Having a well-trained dog will ensure years of happiness for everyone.

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