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Correcting Your Dog’s Bad Habits

As dog parents, it’s our job to teach our dogs what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. If your dog has a bad habit, just like you would with any other family member, you can help change it. We’ve identified some of the most common bad habits among our canine companions, and compiled some helpful tips to help turn them into good habits.

Jumping

Why dogs jump: To get attention. It’s that simple. They often jump when they’re most excited – when you get home, at meal times, when visitors come over, and so on.

How to stop it: Since dogs jump to get attention, change the behavior by not giving it to them. When your dog jumps up, say “No, off” and turn your body away from your dog without touching him. You can also tell him to sit. Once he either sits or stands on four legs, bend down and praise him calmly. Basically, don’t acknowledge him until he settles down. When visitors come over, ask them to do the same. You can also train him to sit-stay at the times he’s most likely to jump. For example, at meal times, tell your dog to sit and stay. For initial training sessions, put him on his leash and have a friend or family member hold it and reinforce the sit-stay. Get out his food and put it in his bowl. Once you’re ready, use a command like “free” to release him from his stay.

When dogs are full of energy, they’re more likely to get overly excited and jump, and less likely to focus and obey commands. Make sure your dog gets the amount of exercise he needs. It’s a good idea to take your dog for a brisk walk or jog before training sessions, and before guests come over.

Biting

Why dogs bite: This one is more complex. Some dogs may bite to protect their territory, belongings or owners, and some dogs may bite when they’re afraid or hurt. Even dogs that are usually well behaved can bite if they are startled or bothered, like when children are too rough or harass them.

How to stop it: Start obedience training as early as possible. Obedience training gives dogs confidence and helps build your bond. If you have children, teach them to be considerate, cautious and quiet around your dog. Consider hiring a professional dog trainer or dog behaviorist to help you work with your dog.

In addition to training, behavior management is very important for dogs that bite. Closely monitor your dog, and keep him away from stressful situations, people or other animals. Don’t risk it, for the safety of others and your dog. Know your dog’s limits and adhere to them.

Puppy Mouthing/Nipping

Why puppies mouth and nip: Puppies nip to be playful with their moms and littermates and to relieve teething pain. They also use their mouths to explore their environments. Some breeds are even instinctively predisposed to using their mouth to accomplish tasks, like Labrador Retrievers or herding dogs. But when this nipping and mouthing carries over to your hands or ankles, it’s a habit to nip in the bud.

How to stop it: Give your puppy a variety of appropriate things to chew on, like toys made of rubber or ones that can be frozen to relieve teething pain. If you’re playing with your puppy and he nips your hand hard, say “no bite” and stop playing. When he releases your hand, offer him a chew toy. Another option is to make a loud “ow” sound when he bites, so he understands that he hurt you.

Puppies also tend to mouth your hand when you touch their paws. Handling your puppy’s paws not only helps establish your dominant role, but also improves his comfort level with grooming. If you touch his paws and he mouths your hand, say “no bite”. Instead of pulling your hand away, which may encourage your puppy to chase it, push your hand slightly further into his mouth. This forces him to release you. When he does, give him a treat. Each time you touch his paw and he doesn’t mouth your hand, give him a treat. Over time, your dog should allow you to hold his paw for longer periods of time.

Prevention, as always, is the best solution. Early obedience training and socialization can help prevent bad habits in dogs. Establish yourself as the leader right away, and introduce your dog to new people, children and other dogs as often as possible. Early socialization helps puppies feel more comfortable with other people and dogs.

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