By the Editors of Exceptional Canine for Exceptional Canine
Dogs aren’t born knowing our rules. They bark and jump and dig not because they’re being bad, but because it’s instinctual. Besides, it often gets a reaction from us. It’s up to us as owners to teach our pets how to express themselves in a manner we appreciate.
Often, common behavioral problems occur as our dogs engage in a natural behavior that conflicts with our needs. But you can teach your dog how to fit in to your household and the world around it. Here’s an overview of how to deal with several basic problems:
Stop Excessive Barking
Your dog barks to communicate in one of the only ways it knows how. Tend to your dog’s needs, and you can often circumvent the noise altogether. The key is to learn to read your dog’s body language. When your dog barks, try to deduce the cause. Is it because your dog is lonely, hungry, hot, bored? Then aim to correct the scenario with exercise, attention, play or a meal. If you’ve tried to get to the root of your dog’s barking habit but simply can’t seem to solve it, then it’s time to consider professional help from a trainer.
Dogs that nip aren’t aiming to hurt you. In many cases, they’re attempting to play. Try yipping loudly when your dog grazes you so it knows you’re hurt. Your dog will instinctively set its teeth less firmly next time. If the behavior occurs again, yip again. It might take some time, but your dog should learn control. (Note: If you’ve got a nipper, never let others approach your dog. Call out a verbal warning to children who go near your dog with an outstretched hand, or put a muzzle on your dog when you’re out.)
Dogs entertain themselves by scrabbling in the dirt. They love to hide treasures, build dens and lie in the cool earth. And, frankly, it seems sort of unfair to ask them to stop this instinctual behavior altogether. Instead, block off a section of your yard and let your dog use it as a playground. Teach your dog to dig in this area by burying bones and toys, and offer praise for digging them up. If you’d like a cleaner alternative, construct a doggie sandbox.
Your dog’s habit of jumping on people can be terrible. Not only is it scary for some guests, but it also greatly increases your dry cleaning bill. When your dog jumps up, walk backward and say “Off!” Praise your pal when all four paws are back on the ground. Consistently using the right reinforcement should abate this behavior.
Stop Submissive Peeing
Dogs that want to show they’re submissive pee on the floor when you come into the house. Instead of scolding your pet -- which will cause it to feel further belittled -- immediately let it outside to pee when you step foot in the door, and ignore your dog for the first 10 minutes that you’re home. Sooner or later, your dog will realize that this behavior doesn’t register with you.
Ease Separation Anxiety
If your dog misses you, it might whine, cry, bark or become destructive when you leave the house. Often, this issue can be stopped by spending adequate time with your dog and exercising it so it doesn’t have the energy to get wound up when you’re not around. You’ll also want to teach your dog that you will return. Do this by practicing quiet departures, then coming home quickly. Offer a reward for good behavior.
Lucky for us, dogs are fast learners. If you provide the right instruction (sometimes with a bit of outside help), your dog will manage life in your household just fine.