We’re all guilty of it at some time - letting out dogs get away with bad behaviours, hoping that they will grow out of them, but in fact we need to teach them correct behaviours from the start, for their sake and ours.
But even if they have already acquired bad habits, change is possible. We can re-train our dogs and turn those bad habits around.
The first thing to remember here is not to punish your dog. Digging is a natural instinct. The solution is to re-direct the behaviour. Set a small area aside that is just for your dog. Encourage him to use it by burying a couple of small treats, a favourite toy or bone and praise him when he digs there. If he is still drawn to other areas, invest in a repellent spray and diligently use it until he gets the message that those areas are unpleasant. You can also buy an attractant that smells appealing to your dog, and spray that on his special digging spot.
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If your dog barks randomly, he’s probably bored. Who can blame him for complaining? The solution here is to provide activities that keep him busy – chew toys, bones, puzzles (you can buy some fantastic puzzle gizmos that your dog has to solve in order to retrieve the treat inside.) Once again, don’t punish him. It will only make him more frustrated.
If your dog barks at visitors, exclude him from the room. Only let him in when he stops, then let the visitor reward his good behaviour. If he starts again, remove him again.
If he barks at passers-by, there are two things we can try. Firstly, talk to a neighbour, regular passer or a friend. Ask them to approach the fence and stay until the dog stops barking – then reward. Another suggestion is to put a container of treats on the outside of the fence with a note explaining that you are trying to break your dog of the habit and that they can help by throwing a treat. Your dog will begin to associate passers-by with something good and will look forward to it.
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The most effective way we can cure our dog of chewing is to remove the object of his attention and replace it with something more appropriate, rewarding him when he chooses that. This is not so easy, though, when the attractive object is something like a piece of furniture.
If we’ve ruled out any issues with our dog’s teeth, then we can assume that the chewing is a comfort thing. If we can’t remove the object, then the most effective solution is to apply something that tastes offensive to our dog.
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When a dog jumps up on us, on our visitors or our couch, it may be seen as a cute or loving gesture. But in fact, jumping up is an issue of dominance. Dogs jump to assert themselves and to check us out to see what smells we’ve brought home with us. They jump on furniture because they want to raise themselves higher than us. It’s never ok to let our dog think he is our superior.
This can be fixed by giving our dog his own bed and rewarding him when he uses it. For a more extreme fix, there is a product available called ‘Sofa Scram,’ a mat that you place on your furniture that emits a high-pitched sound when your dog touches it.
Breaking our dogs of bad habits is not easy and takes time and patience, but as long as we keep in mind that punishment is never the answer and that we are the ‘pack leader’ when it comes to our pets, we can soon teach them good habits to replace the bad and enjoy a harmonious bond.