Dogs make great pets. They’re friendly, loving, protective and oh-so-nice to have around when you’re feeling down. Unfortunately, many people get a dog, and then give him up within a few months because of behavioral problems.
Dogs have a wide range of behavioral problems. In addition to barking, biting, chewing, digging, jumping, marking and mounting, dogs have been known to chase cars and eat garbage—to name a few.
Most dog behavior problems can be prevented. For example, chewing, barking and general destructive behavior may all be a result of boredom, and mounting may be due to raging hormones. If you address these problems early, the behavioral problems will probably not develop.
Once a dog develops a bad habit, they’ll continue with the behavior until you give them a reason to stop. The first step is to understand why Rover is barking, whining or chewing. The next step is to take measures to replace the behavior with one that’s more acceptable, and then praise him for the substitute behavior. In just a few weeks, your dog will respond appropriately, as long as you’re not expecting him to deny his instincts.
Causes of Dogs’ Behavior Problems
The reasons that dogs bark, howl, bite, jump and chew are varied. Each dog is unique, so you’ll have to observe Fido carefully to find out what sets him off. With a strong commitment of time and patience, you can eradicate dog behavior problems that are annoying or dangerous. A few simple tips will help you get started.
Follow a Routine
Dogs are creatures of habit. They rely on routines, and any changes in their routine may cause undue stress and result in the development of problem behavior. For example, don’t feed your dog at nine a.m. one day, then at six the following day. Try to feed him at around the same time every day so that your dog can depend on routine rather than whining to get his breakfast.
A Tired Dog is a Good Dog
Many problem behaviors are a result of boredom or pent-up energy. If your dog is bored, he’ll find something to do—and more often than not, it’s going to be something annoying. Ensuring your dog gets an adequate amount of exercise every day will prevent most problem behaviors.
You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it isn’t easy. Unless you have plenty of experience, you’ll probably benefit from professional help. Dog trainers know all the tricks. A good trainer can help you teach Rover to come when he’s called, sit or lie down on command and avoid chasing other dogs or cats. Behaviors such as jumping on visitors or barking while you’re away can be extinguished in a short time if you follow your trainer’s instruction.
A dog obedience class isn’t just training for your dog. Owners are also expected to learn new behaviors so that their dogs’ needs are met appropriately and consistently.
Avoid Reinforcing Negative Behaviors
People don’t reinforce their dog’s problem behavior on purpose. They’re usually just trying to get Max to stop barking, whining or pawing.
The secret is to connect the dog’s problem behavior with a trigger. Does Buster start whining and barking the minute your alarm clock rings each morning? That’s probably his signal that breakfast is on its way. If he carries on barking until the dog kibble hits the dish, then you’ve essentially made sure that he’ll do it again and again. If you teach Buster that he won’t be fed as long as he’s barking, then you can expect that behavior to change in a very short time.
Most dogs are willing to jump through hoops (literally) for a treat. But experienced trainers also know that dogs will do almost anything to please their masters. A dog’s problem behavior will disappear when your dog understands what you want him to do instead.
If Barney has a bad habit of scratching the paint on your back door whenever he wants to go out, you should first find the substitute behavior that will signal his need to relieve himself. For example, you might expect Barney to sit by the back door. If you’re not paying attention, then a single bark should have you running to open the door. The next time Barney scratches, tell him “Stop!” in a sharp tone. When he puts his paw back on the floor, have him sit, and then praise him and pet him. Then open the door quickly to let him out.
Spay or Neuter Your Dog
Raging hormones are another major cause of problem behaviors. Some dogs are so busy paying attention to other dogs that they refuse to come when they’re called, they tug on leashes and leap over fences and run away. Spaying or neutering is the best solution for these problem behaviors as they decrease your dog’s urgent need to connect with a dog of the opposite sex.
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