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April 05, 2017

Bad Habits Can Be Broken

bad habits can be brokenBad behaviors in dogs are common, from something as small as chewing to more serious problems, such as excessive licking. In most cases, bad behaviors are simply bad habits and bad habits can be broken. Many pet parents see these behaviors but aren’t sure how or if they need to correct them. Although dogs must be dogs, there are some behaviors which need to curbed. In a postive, loving, way.

Bad habits are formed in the exact same way good habits are, so learning what the behaviors are and why they are exhibiting those behaviors is important. Keep in mind, dogs were created for hunting, guarding, and herding; providing us with companionship and warmth is just a bonus!

Some of the behaviors they exhibit are naturally ingrained tendencies, even if they are housebound instead of out hunting. Just because we take animals out of their natural habitats, doesn’t mean they lose their instincts and desires. When they aren’t allowed to practice their natural behaviors, they create new ones for mental stimulation, such as scratching the new carpet…

 To correct unwanted behaviors, there are 3 things to consider:

  1. Provide direction and alternative stimulation
  2. Catch the bad behavior the second it starts
  3. Don’t allow your pup opportunities to practice bad behavior when you aren’t around

 Most bad behaviors, such as chewing, digging, barking, and excessive licking are formed out of sheer boredom. Mental stimulation is at the top of the list for eliminating these issues and more. Dogs are not designed to sit around doing nothing. They need walks, cuddles, chasing, running, adventures, and games to keep their minds and bodies active and healthy. They also need this type of stimulation to keep bad behaviors, such as chewing and digging at bay.

 Dealing with bad behaviors once they have become extreme can be costly and frustrating. A trip to the ER, due to your pup swallowing something he shouldn’t have or being sent a warning by your neighbors for excessive barking, doesn’t bring anyone joy. Knowing the reason behind your dog’s bad behavior is the first step to resolving it.

 It is easier to correct and shape a puppy’s behavior more so than adult dogs but with the right amount of consistent and correct training, most behaviors are correctable. Fixing the behavior starts with correctly examining it, if your dog jumps on guests when they arrive, for instance, and your action is to lock them in the bedroom or outside, you are making matters worse. Less exposure to your guests (and you) will make them even more excited when strangers are in the house.

Instead, try creating a space inside your home where your dog can still be part of the action but less likely to annoy. Give them a treat when they remain seated or behind the baby gate and encourage good behavior by reinforcing them when they allow a pat on the head, instead of a full body hug.

Daily reminders of good behavior vs. bad behavior is key. Teaching control and exercising boundaries will ensure your pup understands what you expect. Above all, they want to please you, so be patient yet firm. You can also find wonderful pet trainers and walkers in your area, who can teach your dog the basics when it comes to proper interactions with fellow dogs and humans.

If you have exhausted your efforts and are not seeing much improvement, a few sessions with a local trainer could be useful, especially if you are willing to put in the time to keep those positive lessons in play once you bring them home!


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