When your pet’s natural instincts turn into not-so-adorable problem behaviors, implementing positive training techniques and providing alternative options will promote good behavior.
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Tired of the constant barking or biting? Dogs aren’t perfect, but excessive barking or biting can become a problem. Learn expert tips and advice below on how to curb these common behavioral issues.
Barking is how our pups communicate with us, as well as with each other. For dogs, barking can act as:
A way to protect their territory
An alert or warning
A way to get your attention
An expression of frustration
While occasional barking is natural dog behavior, excessive barking can quickly become a headache—not just metaphorically.
The best way to reduce or eliminate excessive barking is by identifying the cause and using dog training resources to modify the unwanted behavior.
If a visit from a friend elicits five minutes of barking, you can train your dog to sit in an assigned spot when someone comes to your door. You can also keep a toy by the front door and train your dog to pick it up before they greet your guests. With a toy in their mouth, your dog won’t be able to bark.
If your dog barks for attention, food, or playtime, don’t reward their poor manners by giving them what they want. Ignore your dog until they’ve stopped barking, then reward them as a form of positive reinforcement. You can also teach your dog alternative ways to communicate, such as tapping the door to go out or bringing a toy over to play.
If your dog barks at passers-by as a way of saying, “Stay away!” you might want to invest in opaque fencing, frosted windows, or blinds to limit your dog’s vision. You can also train your dog to learn the command, “Quiet”—a useful trick for any time your young pup or adult dog barks excessively.
Every dog breed loves to chew. It relieves anxiety, provides mental stimulation, and keeps their jaws and teeth healthy. For a young pup, chewing also helps relieve teething pain. But without proper discipline, your dog will assume everything is a chew toy, which could result in a long-term behavior problem.
As a pet parent, it can feel impossible to say no to our dogs sometimes. After all, they don’t call them “puppy dog eyes” for nothing.
But it’s important to discourage inappropriate chewing with stern commands and training methods. Replace the object your dog is chewing with an appropriate chew toy or bone, and then reward them. If your dog learns that chewing on the correct object will earn them affection, praise, and treats, they’ll choose to chew on it time and time again.
You can also try adding more mentally stimulating play into their daily routine, such as puzzles or search games. If your dog chews out of boredom, giving them a challenging distraction will put an end to this habit.
For teething puppies in need of relief, offer the following alternatives to chew on:
Frozen chew toys
To many owners, especially of calm, friendly pups, biting can feel sudden and random; however, dogs don’t just bite out of the blue.
Your dog might snap at you for a number of reasons:
They feel anxious or overwhelmed, whether from humans or other animals
They’re protecting themselves, their litter, their territory, or their belongings
They’re scared or have been startled
They have an injury or illness that’s making them particularly sensitive or evasive
They’re overly excited during playtime
By understanding the most common reasons for biting, you can effectively assess and intervene in troubling situations. Beyond that, you can protect your pup by:
Set your pup up for success by teaching basic commands using positive reinforcement. Until you’re confident in their training, avoid letting them off-leash in public; instead, keep them close and introduce them slowly to new places, people, dogs, and situations.
Dogs can respond unpredictably to new experiences and stimuli. While they’re young, slowly and safely introduce them to other dogs and potentially frightening situations, like loud crashes, storms, and machinery.
Overly eager children and young pups usually have the best intentions, but they can also frighten or overwhelm your dog, causing a bite that no one wants. Sometimes, removing your dog from an interaction or asking that the other dog be leashed in public can save everyone from a painful situation.
Whether you’re actively “training” your new puppy or not, they’re learning from the moment they arrive home with you. That means that if you’re not purposefully teaching good behavior from day one, they’ll pick up and solidify any number of bad habits.
During their earliest days, you can set them up for success by creating a strong, trusting relationship and instilling a basic structure, starting with the behaviors you most want to see.
Introduce your puppy to their crate right away so you can start potty training as soon as possible. Because puppies naturally don’t like to soil where they sleep, crate training them for the night hours or when you’re not around will help prevent accidents.
Training Tip #1:
As a general rule, your puppy can only hold their bladder for about the same number of hours as they are old in months. That means if you have a three-month-old puppy, you shouldn’t keep them crated for more than three hours at a time.
A trip to the dog park or an obedience class provides an opportunity for your young pup to socialize with other dogs off the leash. Not only does socialization help prevent anxiety, but it also teaches your pup how to confidently and properly play with others.
Training Tip #2:
At three months, your puppy’s brain is focused on training and bonding. This is the best time to start the socialization process with your growing puppy
Habits can form quickly, especially in newborn pups. It’s much easier to teach your puppy desirable behavior from the beginning, rather than break and reteach habits down the line.
Training Tip #3:
Consistency is key in dog training. Make sure everyone in your household and all visitors are aware of the ground rules and how to enforce them to avoid confusing your young pup and encouraging bad behavior.
For most pups, leash training is easier than you might think and can do wonders for your everyday outings. As with most training, the key is consistent, positive reinforcement.
Training Tip #4:
Use an auditory cue like “heel” or a tongue click to remind your pup about the appropriate walking position: right next to you. Stop walking when they pull ahead and reward them with a treat when they walk nicely at your side.
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ASPCA. Destructive Chewing. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/destructive-chewing
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. Cat Behavior Problems and Training Tips. https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/cat-behavior-problems-and-training-tips/
ASPCA. Destructive Scratching. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/destructive-scratching
American Kennel Club. Puppy Training Timeline: Teaching Good Behavior Before It’s Too Late. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/puppy-training-timeline-teaching-good-behavior-before-its-too-late/
VCA Animal Hospitals. Puppy Behavior and Training – Training Basics. https://vcacanada.com/know-your-pet/puppy-behavior-and-training-training-basics
Animal Humane Society. Teach your dog to walk on a loose leash. https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/behavior/teach-your-dog-walk-loose-leash
American Veterinary Medical Association. Why do dogs bite? https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/why-do-dogs-bite