Do you dread someone ringing the doorbell? Can’t stand inviting guests over because of how excited your dog gets? Maybe you don’t understand what your dog is trying to communicate to you? Training your dog by yourself can be difficult, especially if you don’t understand the reason your dog is doing what they do. Not all problems are an easy fix and sometimes expert trainers are needed to help introduce some dog behavior solutions. Let’s learn about dog behavior solutions and how learning to communicate with your dog can help solve some of those bad behaviors and strengthen your bond, all at the same time!
Common dog behaviors we encounter with clients include barking, chewing, digging and separation anxiety. It’s also important to take into consideration the dog’s breed, many breeds have been bred to have specific characteristics that are more prevalent in that breed over others. For example, a guardian breed, such as the Great Pyrenees, may bark more than a Labrador Retriever. They were bred to alert to dangers and scare them away, all with a bark. Another example would be a terrier who digs holes all over your beautiful, manicured yard. Terriers were bred to dig because they were used for hunting small game. Not all dog behaviors are specific to all breeds but our dog behavior solutions are. The longer a dog continues a habit, the harder it can be to break. Don’t worry though, with consistency and dedication, even old dogs can benefit from our dog behavior solutions. There are many solutions to a problem and we won’t list them all here. Sometimes a problem can be too much for an owner to handle and that’s where we come in. Training isn’t always for the dogs either, humans can also benefit from a few training sessions too. Treats are not included!
WHY DOGS BARK
Let’s talk about why a dog barks. Barking is a dog’s voice, they use it to communicate with us and other animals along with their body language. Dogs don’t come home with a picture book of their body language and their meanings, nor do they come with a bark translator. It is important to learn what a dog’s body and bark are telling you, that way you can better understand the problem and formulate a more specific dog behavior solution. Barking can have many forms: howling, whining, growls, and anything in-between. Excessive barking is not only annoying to everyone (except the dog), it’s an undesired behavior. Dogs may bark to alert at something they have perceived as a threat. They bark from fear, anxiety, boredom, and even attention. Are you guilty of running to the back door every time your dog has sung you the song of his people for far too long and telling him to be quiet? Guess what you just did… you barked with the dog! This is a rewarding behavior for the dog, not a dog behavior solution. Do you know how I know it’s a rewarding behavior? Because your dog still barks after you closed the door, am I right? Let’s look at some dog behavior solutions:
HELP YOUR DOG
Stop barking with the dog, avoid opening the backdoor, and give your dog attention while they’re barking. Wait until the moment your dog has stopped barking to reward them. Rewards may look like marking the behavior and giving them a treat. It may be bringing them inside to play. We want to reward the dog for stopping so timing is important here. Another dog behavior solution for barking is teaching them a “quiet” command. When your dog stops barking, either in the house or outside, say “quiet” and reward. This requires consistency and it may take some time for your dog to understand you don’t really care for the song of his people.
Let’s talk about chewing and I don’t mean bubble gum. Chewing can be a dog’s favorite activity and it may not be yours if it involves your favorite pair of gym shoes. Puppies chew to explore their world and even into adulthood chewing is important. Teething puppies and adolescent dogs chew to help their teeth come in. An adolescent dog who may be out of the puppy teething stage can start teething again when their adult teeth begin to come in and set. This frustrates many people because they thought they could trust their dog since they had stopped teething for a while, that chewed-up couch cushion says otherwise. It’s important to have to chew appropriate toys for your dog’s age and size. Adult dogs may chew because they’re bored, anxious or they just need a way to get rid of some energy. A dog isn’t going to automatically know that your pillow is any different than that stuffed bear you just bought them, that is unless we use some dog behavior solutions to teach them. If you catch your dog chewing on your house slippers, grab a dog-safe chew toy and say something like “hey!” or “uh-huh!” to get their attention and for them to stop chewing. Take your slobbery slipper back and immediately give them their toy. It’s important to help keep the things you don’t want your dog redesigning with their teeth put up in a safe place. If you keep your shoes up and your dog’s toys out, they’ll catch on that they have their own things to chew on. Always supervise your puppies and dogs who are prone to sneaking off with the tv remote and if you are unable to keep a close eye on them, tether them to you with a long leash or keep them contained in a dog safe play area with their own toys. Ensuring your dog’s mental and physical needs are met can also help curb their excessive chewing.
DOG DIGGING GARDEN
If your dog has appointed itself as the new gardener and landscape artist, we have some dog behavior solutions for you. Dogs dig out of boredom, anxiety, to hide a bone, to get out of the back yard, and even because their instincts tell them to. If you have a bored dog, try giving them some doggy puzzles to figure out for a treat or a lick mat with dog-safe ingredients. 10-15 minute training sessions can help our dogs with their boredom and excess energy. A tired dog is a happy dog! If you have a breed that was bred to dig, you may look at outlets to fulfill their instincts. Barn Hunt is a sport created by Robin Nuttall, owner, and founder of the Barn Hunt Association. He designed the sport to test the working instinct of breeds developed to hunt rodents. Finding a nearby dog club that offers Barn Hunt may be a fun way for dogs who like to dig to search for rodents a way to safely fulfill their instincts and get some exercise too.
DOG DIGGING SPOT
Another dog behavior solution to digging is to create a designated digging spot. Sandboxes are a great place for a dog to practice digging in China. If your dog is begging to bury a bone, try only giving the bone to the dog in an area where they can’t bury it, like a crate or area you can supervise them. If the dog is still attempting to bury the bone in a blanket or the carpet, exchange the bone for a more designed treat or offer a tug toy or playtime before taking the bone away safely. Try introducing the bone again at a different time and repeat taking it away if necessary. Remember to make an exchange for the bone so your dog doesn’t feel the need to guard it.
Does your door look like a scene from a scary movie? Dog claws etched in, maybe some pieces chewed off? Is there a bent-up metal crate with 15 zip ties and a few locks on it that somehow never seem to contain your dog? Having to clean up your clearly potty-trained dog’s urine and feces every time you come home? Let’s talk separation anxiety and some dog behavior solutions to help your dog feel more like a resident and less like a prisoner. It’s tempting to kiss our dog’s goodbye and tell them to be good every time we leave, only to find out they have been the complete opposite of good upon your return home. We can condition our dogs to have anxiety when we leave by telling them the same goodbye and that you’ll be back soon. Your dog knows that when you say something like that, or stand with the door open and pat their head that you’re leaving. This can seem small but can have a huge impact on how your dog feels about you leaving. A dog behavior solution is to not say anything to your dog, don’t make a big deal about leaving, and just leave. If your dog is scratching at the door the moment you shut it, you may need to start with the basics.
DOG DESTROYING EVERYTHING
If grabbing your keys off the rack or putting your shoes on triggers your dog’s anxiety, we have some ways that will help you desensitize your dog to them. Throughout the day, grab your keys and carry them to a different room, leaving them there. Occasionally grab your keys and walk around with them. Do the same with your shoes, we don’t want our dogs to associate certain things with you leaving. This may take a few days or weeks, depending on your consistency and your dog. Once your dog has ignored the jingling of your keys, try walking outside for a minute. After a minute passes, walk back inside but completely ignore your dog. We want your exit and entrances to be as boring as possible. The bigger deal you make of your homecoming, the bigger deal the dog will make of your absence.
DOG GOING AFTER CAR
Practice increasing the time as your dog improves. You may even begin starting your car, sitting in it for a minute, and then turning it off and returning inside. Many dogs are triggered by the noise of the car leaving. Eventually, you should be able to take a drive around the block and back. Remember to increase very slowly and only at the pace your dog is increasing. When working on separation anxiety, we want to be a step behind their progress, not a step ahead. It’s important to help the dog feel confident with being left alone.
Lastly, let’s take a look at understanding a dog’s language. Our dog behavior solutions depend on understanding a dog’s body language so we can know how a dog feels in certain situations. Think about a time your dog was barking in the backyard. What did their body language look like? Dogs who have perceived a threat may stand with ears erect or forward, head looking toward the threat with their tail up or out and their body fairly stiff. The hair on their back may stand and they may growl and bark. Your dog may be trying to tell you he thinks there is something you should check out. It is sometimes helpful to explore this perceived threat with your dog if you know it’s nothing of concern. A dog that is just sitting and barking constantly while showing a relaxed body language could be bored. A howling dog who’s whining and walking around with its head down could be exhibiting signs of separation anxiety. A dog who may be fearful will tuck their tail, pin its ears back and turn its head to the side. A submissive dog may tuck their tail, lower its head and avoid eye contact. Next time your dog is exhibiting a behavior, try to read their body language and use one of our dog behavior solutions to help the dog through whatever situation they’re struggling with.
We can offer all the dog behavior solutions in the world but without dedication and consistency from the owner and/or family members, undesired behaviors will still continue. Some dog behaviors can be corrected in a matter of weeks, others will take months. Many will even require help from dedicated trainers who have the passion, knowledge, and experience to help you and your dog succeed. We are here to walk hand and hand or should I say, paw and hand with you and your canine partners to create the best bond possible. We hope you’ll try some of our dog behavior solutions and call on us if you need some pawsitive training to get you and your furry friend on the right track to a long life of happy tails.