Strategies to Deal with Problem Behaviours
Socialisation and the creation of a proper living environment are key factors to avoiding problem behaviours. Try to imagine all of the elements of his life with humans that he will need to accept to be comfortable with us such as being bathed, walking on streets, vacuum cleaners, etc. Teach your dog that such things are not scary by slowly introducing him using treats, toys and praise.
Another key prevention is to create a means of communication through training. Once you’ve taught the dog that calm behaviour is frequently rewarded and that you control access to all of his favourite things, you have made a big step towards solving any problem behaviours that may come your way in the future.
Keep the dog’s environment appropriate for him. Think about the amount of exercise he’s getting, whether his intellect is being challenged, or if he has enough opportunities to socialise with other dogs and people. Make sure his diet is good and his health is well maintained.
Let him feel the confidence that comes from working for a living and the security or having a strong leader. Ask him for a behaviour before giving his access to good stuff like the couch or his dinner.
Many problems reported by dog owners are with behaviours that are instinctual to the dog such as barking, digging, pulling, jumping up, nipping, chewing etc. Others are things that we have accidentally trained into the dog such as barking for attention. It helps to try to understand what is the dog’s motivation for his behaviour? For example, why won’t your dog come to you when he’s playing with other dogs even though he “knows” what “come” means? If your dog chooses not to come to you sometimes it is probably because coming to you is not more rewarding than what he is currently doing. To help change that, when you call him, be sure you have a good treat and often times let him continue playing. Begin your practice with short distances.
Below are some helpful steps to follow when trying to decide how to help your dog through any problem behaviour:
1. Consider his environment and health. Is he getting enough exercise – both mental and physical, a good diet, enough sleep, etc? Could the misbehaviour be due to a medical problem?
2. Prevent the misbehaviour until you’ve had time to teach him what you want him to do.
3. Make sure that you are not accidentally rewarding the misbehaviour. Hint: Any response could be interpreted by your dog as a reward! Ignore the misbehaviour or give him a 5 minute time out in a safe but boring area.
4. Think of something that you could reward that would replace the misbehaviour. For example, teach your dog to sit instead of jumping up to receive affection. Do your best to ask him for and reward the behaviour you want before your dog begins to misbehave. Make sure your reward is of more value to your dog than the misbehaviour. Practice the replacement behaviour and reward the correct response, ignoring mistakes. Begin with challenges that are easy for him and then gradually increase the difficulty.
5. If your dog’s misbehaviour is caused by fear, try to change his dog’s mind about the “scary thing” by pairing it with something he loves. For example: If your dog has a problem with the mail carrier, teach him that the mail carrier’s visit is followed by a super treat. He will soon begin to look forward to the mail carriers visits. This technique works best if you also work to prevent him from getting so “worked up”.
6. Compromise and be patient!