According to common wisdom, a dog is a person’s best friend but that does not mean a dog cannot take on bad habits when living in the home. Despite how it may seem, a dog does not start adopting bad habits out of malice or as an act of revenge because dogs do not think like that.
Rather, the bad habits form as a response to some issue in the dog’s life. Once you address it, you can remedy and, thereby, eliminate it.
As the dog’s owner, it is your responsibility to help the dog break these habits as soon and effectively as possible in a manner that is loving and safe for the dog. Furthermore, it must not inadvertently cause other bad habits to form. For example, never hit your dog in order to break it of a bad habit, as the dog does not associate the pain and shock with the habit but with you. The last thing you want is for your dog to become frightened and untrusting of you. Then, the dog’s bad habits become the least of your concerns regarding your pet. The most common bad habits dogs have and how to solve them are listed below.
Dogs generally repeat any behavior proven to deliver rewards. Therefore, if your dog receives food after begging for some, then the habit undoubtedly continues. Dogs do not understand periodic exceptions to your rules. If you give your dog food when he or she begs, then it only reinforces the habit and encourages it to continue.
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The way to eliminate begging is simple in concept and a bit more daunting in practice, as you must be 100 percent consistent. Eventually, the dog realizes begging no longer works and gives up the habit. You can help facilitate this process by teaching your dog to go to his or her bed, lay down or put the dog in a crate while you eat. You can even give your dog a chew toy to enjoy while you eat. Better yet, plan to feed your dog at the same times as you eat to keep him or her occupied and content while you enjoy your food in peace.
2. Chewing Inappropriate Items
When dogs chew up furniture, shoes and other personal belongings, they are doing so for the same reasons they chew toys and bones: to release pent-up energy or relieve pressure on their teeth. Therefore, if your dog has enough toys and bones to chew, then he or she is less likely to chew up inappropriate items. You want your dog to chew throughout the day. It keeps the dog from becoming hyperactive and taking on other nervous energy habits, as well as contributes to teeth and gum health.
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You simply need to instruct your dog on which objects are okay to chew and which are not. When you observe your dog starting to chew on something it is not supposed to, gently redirect its energy to one of its own chew toys or bones.
When your dog does chew on a toy or dog treat, even if you just redirected its attention there, praise the dog exuberantly. You could even offer small training treats as extra positive reinforcement. If the dog continues chewing inappropriate objects, then increase the dog’s exercise and offer mentally stimulating playtime with you, like playing fetch. Your dog may simply have too much nervous energy to wear out.
Digging is a natural habit for dogs, but it can become a problem when sharing your home and yard without destroying it. To stop your dog from digging in the home or yard, try to figure out why your dog is digging, as there can be many reasons. Sometimes, a dog digs when he or she is too warm and is trying to make a spot to keep cool. Conversely, dogs dig on cold days to create a space to keep warm. On the other hand, a dog might dig to locate the source of a scent it has picked up, such as prey like a lizard, rabbit or squirrel.
Alternatively, dogs often dig because they are bored, or are burying a valued object, attempting to escape an unwanted situation or simply because he or she enjoys the activity. For temperature-related digging, provide your dog what it needs to stay cool or warm. Consider using an automatic thermostat to regulate the temperature when at work or otherwise out of the house. If the digging is out of boredom, then give your dog better alternatives to keep entertained. If your dog enjoys digging, then select a spot in the yard where he or she can dig. Whatever the solution, always remember to praise your dog for cooperation to reinforce the wanted behavior.
4. Pulling on the Leash
If your dog pulls on its leash during walks, then the reason is simple: the dog has learned from previous experience pulling is a rewarding behavior. No matter how much you scold the dog or pull back on the leash if you are also moving forward at the same time the dog learns that pulling works. In order to squelch this behavior, you must stop moving altogether until the dog stops pulling, then proceed forward. At first, you may only get a step or two in at a time before you stop again.
Although this can feel annoying to you, it is even more annoying to the dog, who wants nothing more than to keep moving forward. Therefore, as the dog learns you only move forward when he or she stops pulling, your dog eventually avoids pulling precisely for the same reason it used to pull: to keep moving forward. The trick to making this work, as with most dog training exercises, is to be consistent in your approach. A more active and interactive method you can also try is to keep changing directions every time the dog pulls. If the dog gets into too much of a routine, then always walking the same path, then he or she does not really need you for guidance. However, if you keep changing paths on the dog every time he or she pulls, then the dog relies more on you for direction.
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