Preventing negative dog behavior

Jumping, mouthing, barking and unruliness: these are just a few of the issues that dog owners may experience on a daily basis, but are totally preventable. Basic obedience goes a long way. It doesn’t just teach the dog the basics of sit, down, stay but also teaches the owner what to do and just as important – what not to do.

Most dogs act out to get your attention. They want you to talk to them and touch them. They crave interaction. It is the reward they seek and desire. So if your dog misbehaves and you yell and push him away, you are unintentionally rewarding the negative behavior. Instead, use attention as a reward after your dog has calmed down and is sitting and/or standing quietly. Should the unwanted behavior persist, walk away and refuse to engage with him. Your dog will eventually learn that the attention he seeks isn’t acquired through jumping, mouthing, barking, etc., but rather by sitting or standing quietly.

Puppy rearing is so important. Puppies learn valuable behaviors from their mother and litter mates but should also be handled by humans early on. The most important and influential development timeframe for puppies is from three to twelve weeks of age because early experiences can often set a puppy up for success or failure as they develop and mature. Some basic yet valuable experiences that help a puppy develop appropriate social skills include teaching and practicing how to play appropriately with people and other animals, self-control, and paying attention as you provide them with exposure to a variety of circumstances that are positive and/or benign.

Owners should learn how to read canine body language so they know what their dog is communicating and feeling. Owners need to also understand how their own body language and actions can be interpreted by their dog. It may be unreasonable to always expect your dog to learn “human” without you learning “dog”. Owners should be proactive with training throughout their pet’s entire life to demonstrate consistency and reliability and it is entirely possible to teach an old dog new tricks!

Another common behavior issue that dogs and owners experience is separation anxiety. When left alone, some dogs with diagnosed separation anxiety may display excessive vocalization, destructive behavior, urination/defecation when already housebroken, excessive salivating and/or vomiting, escaping, etc. Sometimes separation anxiety can be developed through schedule changes, traumatic events or moving into a different home. Prevention focuses on gradually teaching the dog to be left alone for longer periods of time, ignoring the dog 15 minutes before leaving and 15 minutes after arriving home, keeping the home environment canine comfortable and full of enrichments. Other tips include providing a special treat before leaving such as a stuffed Kong and practicing independence by distancing yourself from your dog while home so that they learn that being alone isn’t stressful.

Aggression can certainly be a problem and there can be many forms of aggression brought about by fear, protecting territory, inter-dog interactions, and food/resource guarding. In addition to genetics, aggression can result from environmental factors, puppyhood development and early experiences.  Environmental influences can start before a puppy is born while they’re still in utero, therefore, a pregnant dog should be kept happy and spoiled, as her emotional state can impact the puppies before they are born.

With any training, behavior modification or interactions, it’s imperative to never physically correct or physically punish dogs.  It is also important to share information with people who interact with your dog so they reinforce what you have taught your pet.  Consistency is key so everyone must be doing the same things in order for training to be effective.  

Preventing negative dog behavior

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Copyright 2013 Connecticut Humane Society

Copyright 2013 Connecticut Humane Society