The following ‘problem’ behaviours are normal dog behaviours that people
tend to find annoying. All dogs will do these things if given the opportunity and
if not trained to behave more acceptably.
Most dogs will bark at strangers, and territorial barking may start at maturity. This can be mildly annoying but is rarely a problem. Dogs that bark repetitively are often anxious and distressed because they are alone – solitary confinement is boring but it is also very stressful. You need to teach your young puppy to enjoy being in the back yard and to be
comfortable with his own company.
As soon as you can, start teaching your puppy that outside is a good place
to be and that you’ll be back soon.
Give your puppy his breakfast outside as a matter of routine and try to
make it last as long as possible. Kong toys stuffed with dog food, Buster
food cubes and other toys that dispense food slowly and require effort will
keep the puppy busy for some time.
At first let him back in as soon as he’s stopped showing interest and then gradually increase the time he spends out there. Keep coming back before he gets anxious.
As he grows you can hide bones around the garden as well as using the food dispensing
toys, so that getting that first meal of the day takes an hour or so, by which
time the pup will be ready for a nap.
Try to make your backyard the place where all the fun happens and make inside the place where you demand calm, sensible and obedient behaviour (just as – in an ideal world – rollerblades and soccer balls are not allowed in the house).
You also need to be sure that your dog is not being left alone for excessive
Pulling on the lead
Dogs who pull on the lead can be annoying to walk with.
You should first teach your puppy to walk on a lead in your backyard
where there are few distractions. Say ‘Heel’ (or ‘Radishes’ – it doesn’t
matter what you say as long as you and everyone else in the house say
the same thing!) and reward the puppy when he comes alongside you on
the correct side. Walk off and reward if he stays in that position. Once
you’re getting there put the lead on and repeat.
Once outside don’t let your pup make any progress forward if he pulls on
the lead – he has to learn that the only way to get anywhere is if the lead is
slack. Stand like a rock – otherwise he will believe that the best way
forward is to pull you along. As soon as the lead is loose move forward so
that he learns that progress is only made with a loose lead. Don’t take your
dog out ‘for a walk’ until he knows how to be led – before that, you are
taking the dog out for a training session.
If you have problems with training your dog to walk without pulling, I
strongly recommend that you use a Gentle Leader® instead of a collar for
walking and training your puppy. This is not a muzzle but is an alternative
means of controlling your dog to the more conventional collar and lead.
Your pup may object to wearing the head collar at first, but if you persist
your pup will become accustomed to it – particularly if it is associated withgoing for a walk. Puppies usually don’t like conventional collars either but if
they are left on they soon become accustomed to them.The Gentle Leader® will give you control over your puppy’s head and if you use it you will never have a dog who pulls on his lead.
If you find your pup is misbehaving in the house – jumping on smaller children for example– you can leave the Gentle Leader® on with a light string attached. You
can then discipline from a distance by saying ‘No’ and gently pulling the
pup around so that he is looking at you. That way, ‘No’ becomes a
meaningful command rather than just background noise for an exuberant
pup. The Gentle Leader® also has an instructional video available, which
is very useful.
Immature and submissive dogs will try to ingratiate
themselves with their superiors by jumping and licking them about the
mouth – this can become a bad habit that terrifies young children. It starts
as a baby puppy.
Don’t let your baby pup jump up – always reach down
or kneel to pat him and make sure he has all four feet on the ground when
you do. If your pup jumps up then turn away from him and ignore him until
he has all four feet on the ground: don’t look at him or speak to him until
he is no longer jumping, especially when you come home and the pup is
If your dog only jumps on strangers the solution may be to train
him to come when called and sit on command. The Gentle Leader® on a
light string may be helpful in training your dog in this situation.
Chewing pot plants and other vulnerable objects.
Don’t leave toys, shoes, hoses or anything chewable lying around. A “Snappy Trainer” a kind of modified mousetrap that gives a nasty fright without pain can train pups to leave pot plants or benches alone. Some treasured items can be protected by painting them with Tabasco Sauce. These can be effective ‘punishers’.
Give your pup his own chewable toys. When caught chewing something prohibited, take it away with a firm ‘No’ and give him a permitted chew toy or bone. There are many toys available that provide hours of occupation and chewing for dogs left alone. I recommend the Kong toys and the Buster Food Cube – but nothing beats a brisket bone.
Chewing the washing.
Chewing the washing on the line is really good fun. To make it less enjoyable, hang pillowslips or stockings on the line with chilli powder or even (as one owner suggested) a cactus plant in them! Provide an alternative hanging toy – a knotted rope hanging from a branch can provide hours of fun.
Scratching at doors, jumping on tables.
An unexpected squirt of water in the face can be an excellent deterrent for ‘naughty’ behaviour – so can a loud noise like a chain thrown against a rubbish-bin lid or a drink can full of stones. In our house, a well-aimed wet dish cloth works well.
NEVER open the door to a puppy chucking a tantrum, scratching or barking at it – unless that is what you want your dog to do when he wants to come inside. If the puppy gets hysterical – go out via another door and then casually “notice” him so he doesn’t get the idea that tantrums work.
Digging and garden reconstruction.
If your garden is large enough, create an area in your garden where your pup CAN dig. Bury treats and toys there – put up a trellis in front of it. Old sand pits are perfect.
You can bury balloons in digging holes and sometimes an exploding balloon will deter a pup from digging again – but a robust puppy may well regard that as part of the fun.
Burying poo in the top of the hole will usually deter the dog from digging there again.
An enclosed run may be the answer for small gardens while you are away from the house. Train your dog to enjoy that place by giving him treats and toys there and gradually increase the time spent there. Try to position it so that your dog can see a bit of the world going by during the day and remember that he will be very excited when you first let him out – greet him calmly, don’t respond until all four feet are on the ground and give him time to settle down.
Don’t leave him in there while you are at home and don’t use the pen as punishment – only as a place to stay and sleep.
To train your dog to stop doing something annoying, work out
the benefit to the dog from that behaviour and make sure that he doesn’t
get the benefit/reward/positive reinforcer. Punishment can be used in
particular circumstances, in which case you need to set up the situation so
that the behaviour is likely to occur and then position yourself so that you
can immediately deliver a prompt deterrent. Associate this with a loud
growl or ‘Bah’, delivered in a deep voice and soon ‘Bah’ alone will be
enough to stop the naughty behaviour. BUT:
- Wherever possible remember that most of the behaviour that bothers
you is normal, and that you should try to provide an acceptable
alternative way for the dog to express himself.
- Try to ensure that bad behaviour is not rewarded – try to think like your
dog and work out what reward he is getting from the annoying behaviour. If there is nothing to be gained from a behaviour it will eventually stop.
- Be aware that a bored dog is an active, agitated and energetic dog – a
contented dog will lie about happily for most of the day. Give your dog
as much company as possible and make sure that there is something
to do each day and that he has a view of the world going by – the walls
of your garden may be attractive but they are very boring if you have
nothing else to look at.