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Are you having behavior or training problems with your dog? Are you looking for tips for how to train your dog to avoid common behavioral problems? Our dog behavior guide can help you tackle even the most complex dog behavior issues.

Eating Inappropriate Things

Why does my dog eat feces?

Coprophagia can have underlying medical causes including, but not limited to IBD, intestinal parasites, diabetes, and thyroid disease, or the behavior can be attention-seeking.  Once medical causes are ruled out, behavior training is the next step.  The first step is to be ready with a disposable dog bag and take your dog out on a leash to defecate.  Once he defecates promptly pick up the feces and dispose.  If your dog is in a yard, frequent (multiple times daily) yard pick up is necessary.  There are also products that can be added to the dog food that discourages coprophagia, however, it should be noted that to be successful, you should give all the dogs in your household this product.

Why does my dog eat grass?

There are many potential causes for your dog to be eating grass.  Sometimes there is a nutritional deficiency; sometimes it is behavioral with underlying boredom or OCD like tendencies.  Some dogs eat grass and then vomit.  While eating grass is not inherently harmful, if the grass is treated in any way with pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides, then this could be harmful for your dog.  Sometimes changing to a higher fiber diet may help decrease or eliminate grass eating behaviors.

Why does my dog eat inanimate objects?

Dogs have been known to eat many different types of inanimate objects.  As with eating grass, there are occasional underlying nutritional or medical conditions causing pica, however, sometimes it can be psychological as well.  If your dog is  known to have pica, it is best to keep their preferred objects inaccessible to them to keep them from harming themselves.

Barking

Why do dogs bark?

Barking is a way of communication for dogs, and the reasons are varied. It is important to identify what type of barking your dog is doing in order to apply the proper training techniques.

How can I stop my dog from barking at strangers?

First you must decide what type of barking your dog is doing. Territorial barking is when your dog barks in response to strangers (human or animal) coming near his perceived territory whether that is your yard, house or car. Greeting Barking can be identified by your dog’s relaxed and excited body language when greeting people or other animals. Alarm barking generally creates a stiffer body language and can be similar to territorial barking except they also bark in other locations not considered their territory (on walks, at the park, at a friend’s house for example)

Due to a dog’s natural instinct to be motivated by fear and guarding their territory, punishment training methods have very little if any affect on the barking.  For this reason, the best methods include decreasing your dog’s opportunity for alarm and territory guarding or experiencing triggers for their barking.  Some suggestions would be:

  • If your dog is inside you can try blocking their view of the outside where they can see strangers.  If outdoor you can try a solid fencing to keep them from seeing strangers on the other side.
  • An effective training tool can also be to not allow your dog to greet anyone as they enter your property or house.  By training your dog to quietly wait at another location such as a specific rug, another room, or in their crate, their territory guarding motivation will diminish.   To begin quiet training, when your dog begins to bark, calmly and firmly say (try not to yell) “quiet” then you can either go over to your dog and gently close your dog’s mouth with your fingers and repeat the quiet command.  If you are not comfortable closing your dogs mouth, or if your dog will not allow you to, then you can try distracting them by allowing them to nibble on treats from your hand, and as soon as they are distracted from barking and taking the treat, repeat the quiet command.  At this point you will then call your dog away from the entry to your property and place them on your designated quiet area.  Be sure to repeat the quiet command at this point.  Repeat these steps increasing the amount of time you ask them to be quiet in their quiet area until your dog responds to the quiet command by going to their quiet place without barking until you give the command to come.
  • If your dog barks at strangers on walks, it may be helpful to have a pocket full of small treats (pea sized). Before your dog starts to bark at a stranger, distract them with a treat by holding it in front of them and allowing them to nibble on the end of it while passing the stranger.  Keep your body language calm and confident and be sure to praise your dog once the stranger has passed with an improvement in their barking or no barking.  You can start to then add in a training word such as “quiet” while distracting them so they associate not barking with the command “quiet” and a reward.
  • Greeting barking can be decreased with distraction and by decreasing their excitement levels.  Try asking your dog to sit and stay while you invite your guest into your home.  When he is calmly waiting, you can allow your guest to briefly greet your dog calmly.  If he becomes overly excited again and begins to bark, ask him to sit and stay again and repeat the process.  He will then associate being calm and not barking with being allowed to greet guests.  If your dog likes toys, you can also distract him by having him hold a toy in his mouth while you greet your guests and this may lessen the barking as well.

How do I get my dog to stop barking at me for attention?

Does your dog bark at you to get you to play with her or to feed her?  To be successful in training your dog to stop barking at you to get your attention you have to be very consistent.  To a dog all forms of attention (even just making eye contact) is a reward for barking at you.  Instead try looking elsewhere (at a wall or ceiling) or walking out of the room.  As soon as your dog stops barking at you, then give them praise and the attention they were seeking.  It is important to note, success will not only depend on consistency, but your ability to eliminate all attention barking.  For example, if you do not want your dog to bark at you every time she wants to play, but will allow her to bark at you to get let outside, then her attention barking training may not be successful.

My dog barks constantly; should I use a bark collar?

Bark collars come in a variety of options now including citronella collars, ultrasonic noise collars, and electric shock collars.  While studies have shown the different types of collars have similar effectiveness, many dogs will be sensitive to the collars and will not bark while wearing the collar, but will revert back to their barking behaviors while not wearing it.  It is also not recommended for barking induced by fear, anxiety or compulsive barking.  Behavior training is recommended to be the first line in training a dog with barking problems.

Biting and Aggression

Why does my dog bite our house guests?

There are many causes for biting and aggression.  If your dog bites your house guests it can likely be classified as territorial, protective, fear, defensive, or predatory aggression, and it is important to identify the cause of the aggression to implement the appropriate training method.  Training methods implemented inappropriately can be dangerous.  For this reason, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian to find a professional behavior expert in your area to identify the type of aggression your dog is displaying and the best methods of training to use.

Can biting be cured?

It depends on the type of biting.  If we are talking about a puppy biting too hard while playing, then the likelihood of training that puppy not to bite humans during play or to soften bites to other dogs is good.  If we are talking about an aggressive biting, while in some cases we can diminish the behavior through intensive training, we will not be able to know if that dog will experience the right circumstances to induce their biting behavior again, and any dog owner with a dog that has previously bitten should consider their dog at risk of biting and be very diligent about their dog and his surroundings.

My dog is aggressive to other dogs or other people, what do I do?

Because aggression is a complex behavior and can be triggered from a number of underlying emotions and experiences, it is in you and your dog’s best interest and safety to consult with a certified pet behaviorist.  A behaviorist will help you determine what brings on your dogs aggression and can apply the appropriate training techniques.

Chewing

My puppy is chewing on everything, how can I make him stop?

While chewing is a normal dog/puppy behavior, it is distressing when your pooch destroys the arm of a chair or kitchen rug.  Generally the increased chewing seen in puppies decreases once their adult teeth have all come in around 6 months of age.  Here are some tips to keep your puppy from destroying your possessions:

  • Give your puppy lots and lots of dog friendly toys of various shapes, sizes, textures and hardness levels.
  • Try using treat dispensing toys or toys you can put a little pet safe spread or dog safe peanut butter inside to keep them busy for extended periods of time
  • When you see your puppy chewing on something inappropriate, distract them with a toy they can chew on and praise them when they do chew on their toy
  • Burn their energy.  Take them on walks, play fetch with them frequently, take them to puppy classes, the dog park, or sign them up for agility classes.  The more physically active they are the less likely they are to get bored and chew on everything.  Also, puppy daycare may be another option to get them playing, but to also socialize them.
  • Crate train your puppy.  This will allow you to be away from home or not have to constantly supervise your puppy if you work from home.  This will give your puppy a safe quiet place to relax and keep him from being destructive.  Be sure to give him some appropriate toys in his crate,  check on him frequently for potty breaks and to ensure he is not developing any separation anxiety signs, and do not leave him in a crate for extended periods of time.

How do I get my dog to stop nipping and mouthing me while playing?

As a dog grows older it can become more difficult to train a dog from not play biting and mouthing.  First you will want to stop all play and disengage your attention to your dog as soon as she starts this behavior while playing.  By being consistent, she will learn that if she bites, nips, or mouths you during play you will stop playing with her when she wants to play.  The next thing you will want to do is stop playing with your dog with your hands (i.e. roughing her hair up to get her to play or play pushing her away so she comes back at you). Only play with your dog with toys and always away from your body.  Your dog will then associate play with appropriate dog toys and not your hands.

House Soiling

Why does my dog urinate on upright objects?

Marking is a normal instinctual behavior and can be done as a territorial behavior or as part of an anxiety behavior.  Intact males are more likely to mark, however, marking can be seen in some females and neutered males.  If your dog is marking on objects in your home you can try moving the object to a room your dog doesn’t go in.  Appropriate cleaning is also important.  Pheromones left behind when a dog marks causes the behavior to continue. Use a pet enzymatic cleaner for any and all areas your dog marks or urinates on.

Why does my dog urinate when people come to the house or she greets new people?

This type of urinating can be either a submissive or excitement behavior.  Often times when a puppy shows submissive urination behavior, as long as she is not punished for the behavior, the prevalence will decrease as she ages.  Scolding or reprimanding submissive or excitement urination is counterproductive as it often leads to more urination.  If possible ask guests to not greet her right away to allow her time to calm down.  Only when she is calm allow your guests to briefly and calmly greet her.  By decreasing the initial excitement and anxiety of meeting someone new, the urination behavior should diminish.  If the urination behavior is a problem with the flooring in your home, it may be worth looking into pet diapers during training to minimize damage to your floors.

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