Advice on Dog Behaviour

We all want our dogs to behave themselves, and it certainly makes life a lot easier when they do! Understanding why our dogs do the things we see as bad, and getting to know some kind and motivational ways to steer them away from this behaviour, can do wonders for both your life and your dog's. Read on for tips on dealing with specific problems. A more harmonious relationship with your pet awaits!

Behaviours

Digging

Dogs often dig out of boredom. To stop this, consider constructing a small sandpit in an out-of-the-way part of your garden. To capture your dog's attention, hide a few chew toys or a bone under the surface.

Barking

As a dog’s main way of communicating, you have to expect a few barks, but when it becomes an issue, deal with it with training. Use rewards and positive reinforcement to teach your dog to bark when you say "speak"; then you'll be able to introduce a "quiet" command to switch off the barking too.

Stealing

Dogs steal in order to gain attention, as you'll chase them. The best option is not to chase them, unless it'll be expensive or dangerous to either yourself or the dog not to do so. Help your dog feel they are getting enough attention by giving them a good routine when it comes to exercise, playtime, feeding and grooming.

You can also use taste deterrents to stop your dog taking hold of certain items. Just spray the deterrents on to an item they would usually steal, and then leave them to take hold of it in the mouth. When they bite the sprayed item, your dog will get an unpleasant taste which will make them associate taking hold of household items with a taste they don’t enjoy. Be sure to provide alternative items for your dog to carry around, and put them within easy reach so they are not tempted to seek items elsewhere.

Pulling

Train your dog to walk with you, rather than pulling you, when out and about. Attach a suitably strong leather, nylon or rope lead to their collar and use a favourite toy or a treat to keep them by your side. As you walk, use their name and the command "heel" to keep their attention on you. If they get too far ahead, suddenly stand still and say "no" before encouraging them back to your side. Be consistent with this training method and you'll see results. Varying your walking speed will help to keep them interested, and keep their focus on you. You may also consider using a harness while you train them out of the habit, as this will distribute weight evenly around your dog's shoulders when they pull, rather than just the neck.

Eating Plants

This problem is often a result of dogs wanting to explore, but you can discourage it. Ensure a few of your dog's toys are in the garden while they’re there, and give enough attention to keep them entertained so they don’t seek out their own fun. It's important to remove any risks to your dog's health if they have a habit of eating things in the garden: weed-killers, insecticidal sprays, slug pellets, ponds, cocoa shells in mulch and electric cables supplying water features are just some potential dangers. Also ask your vet for advice on plants that can be harmful to your dog, such as the laurel bush.

Nervous Dogs

If a dog's early-life experiences are limited, and they’re not exposed to many different situations, they could become nervous in later life when they find themselves in unexpected circumstances. If this becomes a problem, there are a few things you can do to help them:

  • Place an item they seem fearful of in your home so they can explore it in their own time, and in a safe environment. If it is a home appliance like a vacuum cleaner, scatter a few treats around it so they’re encouraged to investigate.
  • If they’re fearful of other dogs, arrange for them to meet dogs you know to be friendly. This will help them learn to communicate with other dogs properly, and build their confidence.
  • When they encounter an object they are fearful of, or another dog, reward them for staying calm. This can be done with treats or by producing their favourite toy.
  • Consider taking them along to a training class where they can improve their behaviour further.