When dealing with our dogs behaviours, we perceive as negative or undesirable, it is important to remember:
Most behaviours are natural to them, they do not understand they may be doing something wrong.
They are not naughty, stubborn, have selective hearing, or getting their own back.
They cannot change unless you do first! You may have been trying to stop your dog’s undesirable behaviours but since they are continuing, it is important to realise what you are doing is not working,
When dealing with the majority of these behaviours, understanding the underlying reasons they happen will help to stop them. Many have the same underlying common reasons, when these are identified and addressed, the undesirable behaviours will cease to happen.
Attention seeking (positive or negative)
Dogs learn that doing certain behaviours/actions result in getting your attention. You may respond with a negative reaction but your dog will not care, they still have your attention. Try to ignore 100% (no touch, talk or eye contact, slowly walk away if necessary). If this is not possible, you can redirect them to a behaviour they can be praised for.
If a dog has nothing else to keep them happily busy, they will find otheir own ways to keep themsleves occupied. Make sure you have suitable toys/activities available (rotate them to maintain their novelty) & regularly have quick play sessions or do some training.
It’s important to make sure sufficient physical & mental exercise is provided. Walking, & off lead time (when ready), are great but regular activities where dogs need to think also helps channel, & use, any excess energy & prevents boredom setting in.
Have they actually been taught which behaviours are/are not acceptable? Is everyone around them following the same methods? Have they been allowed to not follow through with something? Has there been any inconsistency, are they are allowed to get away with something one day but not the next? Any of these can cause them to be confused.
Lack of sleep
Make sure your dog is getting sufficient sleep, approx.16 hours per day (puppies 18 hours), otherwise they can become over tired resulting in them getting irritable & over excited. When they reach this stage it can be really difficult to calm them down. Regular naps throughout the day are more effective than one long sleep.
There are many things which can make a dog become excited. If this excitement is allowed to build, they find it extremely difficult to settle down quickly. In this state of mind getting them to listen & learn can be pretty impossible. Try to learn what triggers their excitement and get their focus/redirect before their emotions escalate.
When a dog is anxious, stressed or frightened in any way, this can affect their overall behaviours, emotions & actions. What triggers which cause dogs to feel this way need to be identified & addressed.
If your dogs displays any new behaviour, which is out of characrter, or an existing behaviour suddenly escalates, this can indicate a medical issue. Pain & discomfort, however small, can impact how they act. If a dog is acting out of charcter a full vet check is always advised.
Dealing with many undesirables is done in similar ways.
While teaching your dog it is important they are motivated to learn/change. This means paying them with lots of fantastic things. Don't be stingy! Only when they are doing well should you consider giuving less.
Important - Never tell your dog off, it will just confuse & even frighten them. All it will teach them is to avoid doing the behaviour(s) due to it resulting in a negative consequence for them. We do not want to teach our dogs with fear!
When & why are they happening?
Many of these happen at specific times of the day, when you get home, have visitors or in the evening. Use this to your advantage to be ready & prepared to put a new plan into action.
Once you have determined the reason they are starting, you can then use this to help you choose an alternative behaviour to give your dog.
Keeping a diary can be helpful so you identify what causes their behaviour(s) & when they happen.
Instead of trying to think about how to just stop them once they have started, ask yourself what do you want them to do instead? Concentrate on teaching this, as an alternative behaviour for your dog to do, making it much more beneficial for them to repeat more often, instead of the undesirables.
For example, if you want to stop your dog from jumping, then teach them that sitting/having 4 paws on the floor equals lots of great things happening for them.
It can take many consistent repetitions for dogs to achieve reliable results. To help them, while they are still learning, it is important you manage situations. We want to set them up for success by taking away opportunities for them to make the mistake of repeating the undesirable behaviour.
Examples of how to manage: (make sure these are happy positive experiences).
Attach a training line/lead
Teach them to settle on a mat
Pop in their crate/behind a baby gate or barrier
Give them a brain activity, or long lasting chew, to keep them happily busy.
Respond/Redirect to a better behaviour
When missing the opportunity to prevent/manage an undesirable, how you respond has a big impact on whether they continue to repeat the same behaviour again. If you go to them, pick them up, tell them off etc all you are doing is temporarily interrupting them, not actually teaching them.
Stopping any attention/interaction with them, ignoring/walking away may alone stop a behaviour but this can take some time. Instead, redirect your dog to do a appropriate behaviour/action.
Examples of redirection:
Ask them to do an exercise they are really good at
Using a reliable attention noise or recall.
Scattering some food/treats on the ground for them to find.
Run away from them! Dogs not like missing out, if they see you suddenly just run off having fun, they will generally come chase you. When they do, ask them to do an exercise such as a sit, then reward/praise.
Remember your dog cannot change, unless you change first!