Creating Better Behavior
When your dog rummages through the garbage or barks at the mailman, once again, it can be easy to feel like your dog’s behavior will never get any better. At Happy Dog’s our goal is to help owners help their dogs to be successful at behaving in any situation. This means changing the environment, your actions or your training to influence your dog’s behavior in a positive way!
There are lots of reasons why your dog might have trouble behaving well. The environment may be over stimulating which makes it hard for your dog to focus and remember training cues. The behavior you’re asking for may not have been reinforced frequently enough. Or, your dog may be too anxious or uncomfortable to behave well or calmly in whatever situation they’re in. Whatever the reason, there are actions you can take as an owner and trainer to help your dog succeed in any situation.
We teach our clients to prevent bad behavior, manage their dog’s current behavior and train better behaviors for the future.
These prevention strategies are intended for you to prevent your dog from practicing bad behaviors. Every owner can change their dog’s routine and environment in a way that minimizes the dog’s ability to engage in undesirable behaviors.
Prevention starts with being sure each dog’s basic needs are met. To do so, be sure you are incorporating enrichment activities for your dog into every day. Allowing your dog to engage in natural behaviors like sniffing, chewing, and chasing enriches their daily life while alleviating boredom and behavioral issues by leaving your dog emotionally, mentally and physically satisfied.
Unfortunately, when your dog’s needs aren’t met these natural behaviors are unleashed on your home. Chewing table legs instead of dog-safe chews. Chasing kids instead of toys. Sniffing (and peeing) on the couch instead of on a tree two miles into a hike. When your dog is bored or understimulated, they will look for other ways to meet their needs.
You can read our article, All About Playing with Your Pup, to learn more. Meeting your dog’s needs is the first step to setting them up for success! Once you’re sure your dog isn’t destroying pillows out of boredom, you can take these additional steps to prevent bad behaviors from persisting.
Use barriers or a crate.
Keeping your dog in a crate, in a separate room or behind a gate can prevent your dog from rehearsing bad behaviors. This type of prevention is necessary if you cannot otherwise manage your dog’s behavior. Rather than let your dog steal food, chew furniture or jump on guests, you can remove them from the situation to keep them from practicing bad behaviors.
Use a safe-space.
Whether you’re letting your dog sleep loose or putting them in their crate, be sure that wherever your dog is they are safe from disturbances and comfortable. This should be a space that is familiar to your dog, yet separated from the hustle and bustle of the house. This can help your dog relax faster and create a positive, long-term association with “quiet time”.
If your dog has trouble settling down alone, you can use music, television, a fan or other background noises. This can hide sounds that may alert or excite your dog; like human voices in the kitchen, the garbage truck rumbling by or other dogs barking outside.
When you manage your dog’s behavior or environment, you make it easier for your dog to respond to cues as trained and behave well. These simple adjustments to your training and lifestyle will keep you and your dog happy.
Use a leash.
If your dog is unreliable in certain situations, like when people are over, or your dog is still in training, you can use a leash to manage your dog’s behavior. While your dog has some freedom to mingle while leashed, the boundary it provides helps your dog respond as trained and avoid engaging in bad behaviors.
For example, you might recall the dog, from our last article “My Bad Dog”: Debunking Bad Behavior, who runs a muck at the summer BBQ. Stealing food, not coming when called and jumping on guests; the bad behavior never seems to end! A leash and a few treats could’ve turned this total doggy-disaster into a beneficial and family friendly affair. A leash provides you and your dog the opportunity to train behaviors while your dog is distracted by yummy food, new people and loud noise. You’ll be able to better manage where your dog goes, who they interact with and what behaviors they practice!
Use a chew or toy.
Encourage your dog to munch on dog-safe chews or play with their toys. This not only gives them an appropriate way to engage in natural behaviors, it can also help calm your dog down. Behaviors, like licking and chewing, are relaxing for your dog. For example, having a peanut butter, banana stuffed Kong can help your dog build a positive association with their crate.
When preventing our dog from being in a space is impossible, we have to manage their environment in a different way. This may be keeping valuable items put away or keeping your kitchen counters clear of food. While it can be tedious to put your pillows in the closet every time you leave your dog unattended, it’s an important step towards better behavior.
Training your dog how to behave is necessary for all dog owners. With clear criteria for your dog’s behavior, regular training and constant reinforcement, any dog can learn to behave better and live a happier life by doing so!
Use a new behavior to replace an old one.
It’s common for owners to try to teach their dog “what not to do'', like saying “off” when their dog jumps up on the couch or on a guest. This concept is hard for dogs to understand because you can only ask your dog to do the right behavior after they’ve done the wrong behavior. Instead, teach your dog “what to do”! For example, ask your dog to go to their doggy bed in the living room OR to sit when they greet guests. These behaviors give your dog a chance to be successful from the start and avoid practicing the bad behavior.
Use rewards frequently.
When training a new behavior it is important that your dog is immediately and consistently rewarded for their success. Your goal is to make this new behavior the default choice. But, to make your dog WANT to go to their dog bed instead of jump on the couch they need a lot of reinforcement. Happy Dog’s Head Trainer, Piper, says this means rewarding the dog every single time they do the behavior for weeks or months. You'll also need to try out a few different rewards to see what motivates your dog the most! Some dogs love food, while others would prefer a squeaky toy or ball as a reward.
Use a trainer.
Preventing and managing bad behaviors while successfully teaching new behaviors can be quite the challenge, even for experienced dog owners! There are many aspects of the environment and training protocols that make it difficult to have a consistent training plan. For best results, you’ll want to work with a trainer or behavior consultant. Here at Happy Dog’s Training we offer one-on-one training packages and group classes specifically for dogs that need to learn better manners. You can learn more about our services by exploring our Training Page or booking a free phone consultation here: Schedule Appointment