Unfortunately, eliminating problem behaviors is one thing that most dog owners eventually face. Here we will focus on a few of the most commonly encountered behavior problems.
Problem #1 – Jumping up on people
One of the most frequently cited problems with dogs is that of jumping up on people. Unfortunately, this is one of those behaviors that is often inadvertently encouraged by well meaning owners. After all, it is cute and adorable when that little 10 pound puppy jumps up on you, your family members and your friends. Many people reward this behavior on the part of a small puppy with kisses and treats.
This is a huge mistake, however, since that cute little puppy may soon become a full grown dog who could weigh well in excess of 100 pounds. Suddenly that cute jumping behavior is no longer quite so cute.
In addition to being annoying, jumping up on people can be dangerous as well. A large, heavy dog, jumping enthusiastically, can easily knock over a child or an older or handicapped adult. In today’s litigious society, such an incident could easily make you, as the dog’s owner, the subject of an unwanted lawsuit.
The time to teach a dog that jumping up on people is unacceptable is when he is still young and easy to handle. Retraining a dog that has been allowed to jump up on people can be difficult for the owner, and confusing for the dog.
When the puppy tries to jump on you or another member of your family, gently but firmly place the puppy’s feet back on the floor. After the puppy is standing firmly on the floor, be sure to reward and praise him.
It is important for every member of the family, as well as frequently visiting friends, to understand this rule and follow it religiously. If one member of the family reprimands the dog for jumping and another praises him, the dog will be understandably confused. As with other dog training issues, consistency is the key to teaching the dog that jumping is always inappropriate.
When praising and rewarding the dog for staying down, it is important for the trainer to get down on the dog’s level. Giving affection and praise at eye level with the puppy is a great way to reinforce the lesson.
The reason puppies and older dogs jump on people is obvious – they are excited and happy to see them. Many people are reluctant to discourage this exuberant behavior, but it is important to redirect that happiness and energy in other ways. Many well meaning owners, family members and friends inadvertently encourage this jumping up behavior by picking the puppy up, kissing it or otherwise providing encouragement.
One way to redirect the dog’s happiness and excited ness from jumping is to teach him to lift his paw when greeting you. This “shaking hands” posture is an acceptable way for the dog to show his happiness and his respect. Many people even teach their dogs to do simple tricks, like rolling over, instead of jumping on people.
Problem #2 – Pulling and tugging at the leash
Pulling on the leash is another problem trait that many puppies pick up. Unfortunately, this behavior is also one that is sometimes encouraged by well meaning owners. Playing games like tug of war with the leash, or even with a rope (that can look like the leash to the dog) can unwittingly encourage a problem behavior.
The use of a quality body harness can be a big help when training a puppy not to pull, or retraining a dog that has picked up the habit of pulling on the leash. Try training the puppy to accept the body harness the same way it accepts the regular buckle collar.
When walking with your dog, try using a lure or toy to encourage the dog to remain at your side. A training collar, when properly used, can also be a good training tool for a problem dog. When using a training collar or choke chain, however, it is very important to fit it correctly, and to use a size that is neither too big nor too small for your dog.
When walking with your puppy, it is important to keep the leash loose at all times. If the puppy begins to pull ahead, the handler should quickly change directions so that the puppy fast finds itself falling behind. It is important to reverse directions before the puppy has reached the end of the leash.
The leash should stay loose except for the split second it takes the handler to reverse direction. It is important to use a quick tug, followed by an immediate slackening of the leash.
When training a puppy, it is important to never let the puppy pull you around. Training the puppy to walk properly while he or she is still small enough to handle is absolutely vital, especially when dealing with a large breed of dog. If your 150 pound Great Dane hasn’t learned to walk properly while he or she is still a 20 pound puppy, chances are it never will.
It is important not to yank or pull on the puppy’s neck when correcting him. A gentle, steady pressure will work much better than a hard yank. The best strategy is to use the least amount of pressure possible to achieve the desired result.
Problem #3 – Escaping and roaming the neighborhood
A responsible dog owner would never dream of allowing his or her dog to roam the neighborhood freely. Allowing a dog to roam on its own is irresponsible, dangerous (to the dog and the neighborhood), and probably even illegal. Most towns have ordinances which prohibit dogs from being allowed to roam around free, so you could be in legal trouble if your dog is found wandering the neighborhood unattended.
Of course sometimes that wandering dog is not the owner’s idea, and many dogs perform amazing feats of escape when left on their own. The temptations for unattended dogs are many, including passing bicycles, joggers, children, cats and other dogs. It is much easier to prevent escapes than to recapture a loose dog, so let’s talk about some preventative measures every dog owner can take.
Removing the motivation to escape is a big part of the solution. A bored dog is much more likely to spend his day plotting the great escape. A dog that is surrounded by everything he or she needs, like lots of toys, a soft bed, and plenty of fresh clean, water, is more likely to spend his or her day contentedly sleeping or playing with toys until the owner returns.
In addition, a dog with lots of pent up, unused energy is likely to try to escape. Try incorporating several vigorous play sessions with your dog into your daily routine. Make one of those play sessions right before you leave. If your dog has a chance to work of his or her energy, chances are he or she will sleep or relax much of the day.
Of course dealing with the dog is only half the problem. It is also important to make the property as escape proof as possible, through proper fencing and other measures. For dogs that dig, it may be necessary to extend the fence underground by placing metal stakes in the ground every few feet. For dogs that jump, it may be necessary to make the fence higher. And if none of these measures work, it may be necessary to confine the dog to the house when you are not at home.