by: Niall Kennedy
A poorly trained dog can embarrass its owner and offend other people - or even make them feel threatened.
Teaching your dog some manners is just common-sense. You did it with your children and your parents did it with you. If you had never learned right from wrong you would be behaving badly so why expect to be able to raise a dog without any coaching? He has lots to learn.
There's a popular saying among dog trainers: "There's no such thing as a bad dog." While that may be true, any trainer will admit that there are dogs with very bad habits. When a dog acts or reacts to a situation in a way that has a negative impact on her owner or others, the behavior is considered to be "bad." Yet, to the dog, it's just what she does. Stopping bad behavior requires training to give the dog a new behavior, or habit.
One of the most common bad behaviors is jumping up on people. This habit is established when a dog is a puppy. Puppies jump at their mother to get her attention so she will feed them. Dog owners find it adorable that their puppy works so hard to get their attention as she jumps. The naive owners come down to the dog's level or pick the puppy up, not realizing they have just rewarded the dog for jumping and barking. A sharp 'NO' will stop the jumping. Also, ignore the dog and avoid eye contact when she jumps to discourage such behavior.
Unfortunately, behavior that is cute in a puppy often becomes annoying in an adult dog. Large dogs that jump on people for attention easily knock down and accidentally injure children and older people. Small dogs have less ability to injure someone, but usually dirty clothes and snag stockings. In both cases, while you might not mind your dog jumping up on you, other people probably don't feel the same way. Training your dog to sit to be petted is the easiest way to break the jumping habit. To help her develop the "sit for attention" habit, you must ignore her when she jumps on you. You might turn your back or simply walk away. If she follows you, turn quickly and tell her to sit. If she does, pet and praise her. You can reinforce this behavior by having her sit before you put her food bowl down. Every time she sits, she gets a reward of either attention or food. Every time she jumps she gets nothing.
Another sign that your dog has too much energy is chasing cars. A dog's natural instinct is to protect her area, and a car can be seen as a predator. Your dog should be kept securely in the yard when you are not around. When around cars you should keep your dog on a leash. If your dog tries to chase a car give her a sharp yank on the leash and say no. When your dog resists the chance to chase a car, lavish her with praise.
Another unpopular behavior is chewing. Destructive chewing is most often an indication your dog is bored. If your dog chews up the couch cushions or destroys a wicker chair while you are at work, it is probably because she had nothing else to do. If you look up from a book or television to find your dog chewing on your favorite shoes, realize that she is releasing pent-up energy. Give your dog the chance to exercise her body and brain. Plenty of physical exercise will tire her out so that she naps while you relax. Pet supply stores carry a variety of toys that provide mental stimulation-doggie puzzles to keep your pooch busy while you're away. Also, if your dog is a chewer, make sure you give her chewing toys of her own. It is never a good idea to give your dog an old shoe or sock to chew on; she can't tell the difference between your favorites and your discards and they all smell like you.
Using an anti-chew spray such as bitter apple (which dogs hate, and which are available from pet stores) work well. There are certain odors that dogs hate.
Taking these few simple steps will improve your dog's life a great deal.