It can be really stressful to think your dogs ‘bad habits’ are non-reversible and you should have done something different when they were puppies. Sometimes our dogs bad habits are not from what we did wrong when they were puppies but habits they have just picked up by us being a bit lazy with not setting up those boundaries like we did when they were puppies!
Some behaviour may be harder to reverse than others, but generally dogs can be conditioned, it’s just about being persistent, calm and consistent.
Why do bad habits happen?
SOLUTION: offer the mental and physical stimulation they crave. Take them for regular walks and do something you both enjoy so you enjoy it too! But remember a dog needs walking, so if you do not like walking, maybe reconsider if you’re thinking about getting a dog!
- Freeze some of their favourite toys and set up an obstacle course in the back garden
- Teach them new tricks, this helps your bond together and keeps your dog’s brain working
- If your dog likes to dig or sniff things out, then re-create this: get a sandbox or hide things around the garden and let them go wild!
If your dog wants a cuddle but they’re jumping up or getting their muddy paws on your rug or sofa, your allowing behaviour that is not usually acceptable or a habit you established as puppies you did not want them to do!
It’s the same if the puppy dog eyes work and you sneak them food or if they bark or whine to get what they want - if you are allowing it the odd occasion, you are allowing it full stop.
Consistency is key to training so you will need everyone in the family to be on board. No more feeding at the table, no over-treating, no barking when it’s not necessary and do not reward every time they follow the rules. If your training is near complete and your dog doesn't bark when they usually do, do not acknowledge it every time that they are good and follow the rules - they need to learn that is the normal behaviour.
How about chewing, is that good or bad?
It’s natural for a dog to chew and it should be encouraged but it has to be on their toys and not your mail, sofa or shoes!
Rather than punish your dog for chewing the human things, keep plenty of chewing toys around them and redirect them to the appropriate chew toy.
Puppies for example chew to relieve sore gums, so offer them toys for teething puppies or chew treats that help with that!
Walking is a nightmare with them!
You have to remember for the most part, walks are the best thing in the world for a dog. They get so excited they automatically forget they have to be well behaved in order to go for a walk. Whilst a walk is a basic necessity for a dog to stay healthy, if you are doing what most paw-rents do, which is to get the leash right before going on the walk; every time your dog sees you do this they know something fun is going to happen!
What do I do then?
Spend a few minutes with your dog every day desensitising your dog to the sights and sounds of what typically happens before a walk. For most dogs the sound of the leash or you getting your shoes on near their walking cupboard is enough to set them off. If that’s the case, start there. Walk towards where the leash is and if it sets them off, simply turn around and walk away. REPEAT this and over a quick period of time, you approaching the leash without their excitable reaction will no longer happen.
It may sound cruel because they are simply just excited, but if your dog barks or lashes out because of their excitement or behaves badly on the leash because they simply want to go on their adventure, you are ultimately rewarding their behaviour by taking them out for the walk in the end anyway!
LEASH PULLING! I feel like I am walking with the wind!
Simply stop every time they pull on the leash.
Plant your feet firmly on the ground and do not allow them to move forward until they relax. If they do not relax, walk in the opposite direction.
But we know this is much easier said than done - whilst this can be curbed with consistency and calmness, it may also not work. Just remember to not shout at them and stick with it. If they are still pulling on the lead, I would suggest consulting a dog expert.
We know there are many bad habits a dog can acquire over their dog life. But we cannot write them all down.
But we have taught you that with: persistence, calmness and consistency you can condition your dog to overcome their bad habits into habits that are identifiable to your dogs personality.
They get excited for a walk? Great, but they no longer bark, act out or anticipate you going into a certain cupboard equates to them being walked. Instead, they wait patiently for their walk and simply have the best adventure whilst on it.