Archive for the ‘Bad Behaviour’ Category

How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 5

Gemma | March 18th, 2006
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Who hasn’t heard the plaintive barks and howls of dogs left home alone? Nuisance barking is one of the most frequent complaints phoned in to urban and suburban quality-of-life hotlines.

What are these dogs trying to say? Several things, actually. Dogs bark to sound an alarm that they’ve spied a stranger. The bark may ratchet up from alarm bark to defensive bark if they feel challenged by the intruder. An energized dog barks or bays in excitement when it is on a scent while hunting, or as an invitation to play. An isolated dog also may bark or howl as a call to reunite its pack.

To avoid noise pollution citations and war with your neighbors, be mindful of our puppy’s vocalizing while it’s in the yard. Track what events set your pup off by staying home one day and monitoring it. Or videotape the events if you can’t stay home.

Take steps to minimize exposure to whatever sets your dog off. If there are certain times of the day when your pup appears to bark non-stop perhaps when the school next door lets out for the day keep it inside at those times.

Barking to alert you to the presence of a deliver person or other stranger on your property is the dog’s job. Unfortunately, some dogs don’t know when to stop. After a half-dozen woofs, thank the dog for its warning and request silence. If your dog is still barking, ask it for a down-stay. Few dogs will continue to bark when their chests are resting on the ground.

If your dog is still in a barking frenzy and cannot process an obedience cue, you may need to use some sort of sensory interrupter, such as a spritz of canned citronella spray, water from a water pistol or the blast of a whistle. When you’re not home to guide the dog’s behavior, keep the dog in the house so as not to inconvenience your neighbors with your dog’s vocal warnings.

A dog that gets plenty of opportunity to practice misbehaviors will only get better at them so don’t put your pup in the yard unless you’re there to supervise. Erect a solid fence or wall if normal neighborhood activities repeatedly send your dog into a barking frenzy. Teach it to limit its warning barks to a half dozen woofs, then say enough and redirect its attention to another behavior, such as go to bed or lie down.

Reward with a high-value, tasty treat when the pup complies. Dog’s don’t continue to bark when lying down; it’s just not comfortable! Plus, it’s hard to bark and eat a treat at the same time.

Just remember, the backyard can be a special place for your dog to romp off-leash, to nap in a sunny patch of grass, and to enjoy time with family and friends. With supervision, some training and an adept eye toward puppy-proofing, your backyard can be a peaceful haven for the entire family.

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How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 4

Gemma | March 16th, 2006
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Your neighbor’s 10-year-old boy appears at your back gate, ready to enter your yard to retrieve a baseball that inadvertently flew over your fence. Before the boy can make a move, your pup flies toward him with hackles up, furiously barking. The child flees, figuring nobody needs a ball badly enough to take on Cujo!

The dog’s behavior has just been rewarded by the child’s hasty retreat. Without training intervention, this nasty response will become an ingrained habit one sure to make your home insurance carrier quite unhappy one day.

In the beginning, young puppies either boldly approach strangers in a friendly, investigative manner or timidly shrink back, taking a wait-and-see attitude. As they get older, their repertoire may expand to include alarm barking, charging and possibly even aggression.

For some, it’s their genetic birthright and their property. German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Akitas, Belgian Sheepdogs and Doberman Pinchers are a few of the breeds created to have heightened guarding instincts. Between 8 and 18 months of age, these protective instincts begin to emerge.

For other dogs, these behaviors aren’t protectiveness, they’re manifestations of fear. By observing canine body language, it’s easy to tell the fearful from the bold. The fearful dog carries its ears back and its tail low. This pup is uncomfortable with direct eye contact and carries its weight over its rear legs. In contrast, the confident protector dog’s tail is held high and the ears are tilted forward. Its weight is more heavily distributed over its front feet.

Either of these types of dogs can bite. The fearful dog is most likely to bite if cornered and not allowed to escape the situation. The bold, protective dog can bite when it feels its property is being encroached upon.

Whether your puppy was obtained with family security in mind or not, it’s imperative to socialize it to people of all ages, colors and sizes – beginning at an early age. Bring your pup out to greet the gas company’s meter reader, mailman and pool caretaker with dog treats in hand.

Invite neighborhood children to come toss a toy for your new puppy, whether you have kids of your own or not. A puppy has to learn that the herky-jerky movements and high-pitched shrieks of toddlers and kids are normal behaviors and nothing to fear.

Widen open your pup’s horizons by going on expeditions to shopping malls so it can observe humanity at its most diverse always rewarding friendly, appropriate encounters with food treats, play, touch and praise.

By exposing your canine youngster to a wide range of normal human behaviors, while at the same time making it fun and rewarding, you create a stable dog, one that will keep you out of the trouble of dealing with angry neighbors or possible injury to children hopping over your fence, not to mention the legal troubles that come along with it.

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How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 3

Gemma | March 14th, 2006
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Does your dog try to make the great escape from your backyard every chance it gets, working to tunnel his way out beneath the fence? Ask yourself why it feels the need to leave the premises.

An unneutered male will seek out females in heat, so sterilization may put an end to this desire to roam. Social pups, such as Siberian Huskies and Irish Setters, dig out to seek company.

Either refrain from putting this type of dog out in the yard unless you can join it, or consider getting a second dog for company especially if you’re frequently gone long hours. These breeds are terrific candidates for doggie daycare, because they’re unusually dog-friendly and have energy to burn.

If you don’t have a doggie daycare available in your area, consider leaving your dog with a relative or neighbor who works from home, or hiring a dog-walker to come in midday to give your dog a romp.

Is your scenthound (such as a Beagle, Bassett Hound or coonhound) digging out to chase prey or track down smelly goodies from the street buffet? A genetic predisposition makes this behavior difficult to combat.

First, only let these breeds out in the yard with supervision. Second, prepare a distracting food-dispensing toy ahead of time and hide it in the yard. Now the dog will see its yard as a rewarding place and have less desire to seek food elsewhere.

Third, reinforce the bottom of your fence line. This may entail pouring a 6 to 12 inch cement trough beneath the fence line or burying additional wire fencing in an L-formation 6 to 12 inches underground, and extending 2 to 3 feet into the yard. Railroad ties, concrete blocks or large boulders laid against the base of the fence may also inhibit digging to escape.

Not every puppy bent on escape chooses to tunnel out; some climb or jump out. You can prevent climbing by choosing fencing that doesn’t offer footholds, like chain-link does. Prevent over-the-top escapes by choosing a fence that is taller than your dog is able to jump. Or try landscaping the fence line so the area is difficult to clear. Attach brackets to the fence top that angle in toward the yard from which to hang taut wire or loose wire mesh netting as a further deterrent to jumping.

Teach your pup to respect barriers to prevent it from scaling your fence in an attempt to escape. Start training in the house by blocking a doorway with a pet or baby gate. Visit with the puppy while standing on the other side of the gate. If the puppy sits or stands quietly, reward the good behavior with touch, treats, praise or play. As your pup is about to put its feet on the gate, issue a verbal warning, such as Uh-Uh! or Get Off!

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How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 2

Gemma | March 11th, 2006
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Does your yard resemble the moon’s surface, riddled with craters everywhere? When resolving a digging problem, it helps to know why your dog digs. Reasons for digging are many: to relieve boredom, to hunt vermin, to create cooling pits, to escape under fences and to underneath buried treasures, the list goes on…

A dog left in the yard to exercise alone may choose digging as an entertaining way to burn up excess energy. If the soil has been recently tilled to ready it for planting, it’s softer and more enjoyable to dig in than dry, hard-packed soil.

Prevent dogs from digging in newly tilled or freshly planted sections by fencing off your garden patches, laying chicken wire on top of plant beds, or accompanying your puppy on its outings and directing its play toward more wholesome pursuits, such as fetch or hide-and-seek.

Terriers and Dachshunds were bred to hunt vermin, a task that includes dashing down holes to dispatch them. If your lawn is beset by moles, voles, groundhogs or other small mammals, your Parson and Jack Russell, Cairn, Westie or other earth-dog breed will embark on an extermination mission.

The genetic urge to catch and kill these pesky critters is so strong in these breeds that walking them on-leash while they’re in the yard may be the only way to control the digging until you can clear your yard of these interlopers.

During hot summer months, some dogs, particularly the heavily coated northern spitz-type dogs (such as Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds and Alaskan Malamutes, to name a few) frequently cool themselves by digging pits in shady areas to unearth moister ground. Plastic wading pools filled with a few inches of cold water can serve the same purpose while saving your sod. Keeping your pup inside the air-conditioned home during the hottest parts of the day is also wise.

Is Your Pup Digging For Sport?

If so, then you had better choose an out-of-the-way spot in the yard in which to establish a doggie digging pit, because this sporting habit is not likely to change. It doesn’t have to be huge a square 1 to 2 times your dog’s body length should do it. Put some sort of visual boundary around it flat, light-colored stones would be just fine.

Till or aerate the soil, and add a little sand so it’s more pleasant to dig in the pit than elsewhere in the yard. To make it even more appealing, toss in a few biscuits or chewies and call your dog over to dig them out.

When you catch your puppy digging in another part of the yard, interrupt it and direct it to the digging pit. When you catch your pup digging in the pit, reward the behavior. Now you’re well on your way to a pothole-free yard!

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How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 1

Gemma | March 8th, 2006
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Many people believe that you shouldn’t even consider owning a dog unless you have a fenced-in yard. While this opinion may be extreme, it’s no argument that a backyard makes dog ownership simpler: housetraining can begin outdoors from the start and pace is readily accessible for exercise and exploration – even before leash manners are taught.

In fact, the backyard is so handy, some dog owners even use it in place of training (not a very wise move). Got company coming over? No problem toss Sparky out into the yard to prevent exuberant greetings and bring him back when all the visitors have settled in or wait until they’ve all gone home. Hey, how about installing a pet door so you don’t even need to get up to let the dog in or out?

Convenient? Yes, Smart? Not At All

Unfortunately, this relinquishment of supervision and control can lead to backyard mayhem and the creation of an independent thinker a dog that has little desire to please its human caretaker!

Dogs are social creations, and given their druthers, most would choose to keep company with their human family and canine friends. When shipped out to the backyard alone, they become bored and lonely. They entertain themselves by digging holes, tearing out plants and shrubbery, and escaping under or over the fence in search of companionship. Some bark their butts off in an attempt to call their clan together or exchange vocalizations with other yard-bound dogs.

Social isolation isn’t the only reason dogs dig, bark and destroy the backyard, but it plays a major role. After all, if a supervised dog is about to do the wrong thing, its owner is on the spot to give it a warning and redirect its attention to someone preferable, such as fetching a toy or performing an obedience command.

When the dog does the right thing, its owner is able to immediately reward the good behavior with play, praise or a tasty treat; and as we know from psychologists, rewarded behavior increases in frequency.

Think of your backyard as the dog’s home gym. It’s a great place for exercise and stress reduction, but not meant to be the dog’s exclusive home 24/7. A dog isolated in the backyard cannot learn house manners, protect the residents and contents of the home, or build respectful relationships with its people.

If your adolescent dog is too rambunctious to leave home all day then either hire a dog walker, drop it off at a doggie daycare, or install a dog door in the utility room so your dog has access to the yard and one or two well dog-proofed areas of the home. Do one or several of these things until it’s well-behaved enough to earn full run of the house.

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Common Puppy Behavior Problems: Nipping Till It Hurts

Gemma | March 6th, 2006
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All pups start out doing everything possible to seemingly want to annoy you, get in trouble, or worse hurt themselves. But at the same time they are incredibly cute – they have to be so you’ll still love them when they are being really bad, which happens often while they are learning how to behave in a human world.

If your puppy is misbehaving, don’t fret. You can do plenty to help teach him the right way to act in just about any situation. Let’s look at a very common puppy problem of nipping and how to solve the issue. If you follow this approach then you can rest assured that your pup will stop nipping in no time at all.

The Nipping Problem: An Easy Approach

It’s natural for a puppy to nip while playing, and your puppy surely will do it to you, especially when he’s excited. But no matter how cute he is and how harmless it seems, you must put a stop to nipping the moment it begins.

Puppies need to learn that their teeth should never touch human flesh, even in play. This will pay off when your dog grows up he’ll be less likely to bite anyone, especially if you have a big dog. And even the smaller breeds can give a good bite if the nipping behavior is not taken care of.

When you play with your pup, redirect his biting behavior to his toys, especially soft plush toys that have a satisfying give in his mouth and have rubber toys that you can stuff with treats to engage his interest and his teeth.

Even if your puppy is as young as 8 weeks old, he can still learn that biting is not acceptable. If your puppy bites you during play, say ouch in a low voice, and remove your body part from his mouth.

If he continues to bite, walk away from him. If he follows you, step through a door and close him on the other side, but just briefly – don’t leave him alone long enough for him to get in trouble!

You’re teaching him that biting too hard makes the fun stop. He’ll learn to control how hard he bites so you’ll keep playing with him. As he starts to get the idea, you’ll notice that he bites hard with less frequency. Then you raise the bar, and start applying your ouch to softer bites, until he learns to keep his mouth off of skin completely.

Common Puppy Behavior Problems: Mounting & Chasing

Gemma | March 3rd, 2006
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When puppies grow up they often start mounting the legs of their owners or other dogs. This is normal puppy behavior but not something that is appreciated by humans for a number of reasons.

First, it’s embarrassing, especially if your puppy does it to company. Second, it can be a demonstration of dominance on the part of your dog. The notion that your dog is dominant over you or anyone else who comes to visit is something you want to nip in the bud.

If your male puppy is 5 months or older and seems to be suddenly mounting a lot, it’s time for him to be neutered. This may stop the problem completely.

If your puppy is younger than this or is a female and is mounting another dog that he or she is playing with, just ignore the behavior. This is between the dogs and is harmless. If the other dog doesn’t like it, he will let your puppy know.

If humans are the subject of your puppy’s mounting behavior, you need to step in and spend more time obedience training your dog. By mounting, your dog is sending a message that he thinks he is the dominant one in the household. Regular obedience training should remedy this.

Once your puppy understands that humans are above him in the pecking order he will stop challenging you by mounting. If your puppy bites or growls if you try to stop him from mounting you or another person, see a professional dog trainer for help.


Puppies love to chase things: toys, balls, other puppies… They also like to chase things they shouldn’t, like small children, cats, bicycles, cars, etc.

The time to teach your dog not to chase inappropriate things is when he’s young. It’s much more difficult to teach this to an adult, so take advantage of your puppy’s youth and do it right away.

When a puppy chases something or someone, he is looking to play. You must teach your puppy what is OK to chase and what is not. Balls, toys and other dogs who want to play are fine. Kids, cats, and bikes are not.

The best way to teach your puppy not to chase things he shouldn’t is to teach him the leave it cue. Leave it is used to stop your dog from doing something he shouldn’t. This is useful in many different situations, including when your puppy is starting to chase the neighbor’s cat or is running after a small child.

To teach leave it, put the leash and collar on your puppy and have him sit. Hold on to the leash and drop a treat in front of your puppy while saying leave it. when the puppy starts to move toward the treat, repeat the leave it cue.

When your puppy just sits and looks at the treat but doesn’t move toward it, turn him around to face you and praise him. Do this one more time. Then give your puppy the treat by handing it to him.

Once your puppy is reliably leaving the treat when you tell him to, increase his temptation by using something even yummier, like a piece of chicken or one of his favorite toys. Keep working at this until your puppy will leave it every time you ask, even off leash.

When your puppy learns the leave it cue, you can use it to stop him from chasing cats or cars or anything else. Once he hears leave it, he will know that whatever he’s pursuing is off limits.

Common Puppy Behavior Problems: Jumping Up

Gemma | February 27th, 2006
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Nothing is more disconcerting than having a big dog jump up on you and practically knock you over. In fact, this habit is even more dangerous when children or elderly people are concerned. Far too many dog owners leave this bad habit alone and do not get concerned until it’s too late, and the pooch is like a full grown bear trying to tumble over everyone he greets.

Teaching your puppy not to jump on people is important. Even though your pup is small now, he’ll be bigger in no time. If he’s a large breed, he’ll be capable of knocking people over when he jumps up to greet them.

Small Dogs Are Not Off The Hook

Even small dogs can be a nuisance when jumping up so just because you own a toy breed do not think they should be off the hook. These small dogs can rip pantyhose, scratch legs and even knock over small children.

Instead of allowing your dog to jump on people, teach your dog to sit when he greets anyone including you and the other members of your family. First, teach him to sit. Once he knows this basic cue and performs it reliably, you can move on to training him not to jump up.

A Simple Anti-Jumping Training Routine

Start by setting up some training sessions. To train your puppy not to jump on company you’ll need your guests to help you. Before you allow your company in the house, put a leash on your puppy and then bring your guests inside. Tell them that they cannot pet or pay attention to your puppy until he sits in front of them first.

Tell your puppy sit as the company enters. If he doesn’t sit but instead tries to jump up on your visitors, hold him back with the leash and tell your guests to back away from him. They cannot pet him until he obediently sits and controls his impulse to jump up.

To teach your puppy not to jump on you, follow these steps: make sure your hands are free when you come in the house and your puppy tries to jump up on you, grasp him by the collar and tell him Off. Then tell him to sit as you continue to grasp his collar. Hold him in this position and then praise him for sitting.

Encourage everyone in your family to enforce this rule constantly to your puppy gets the message. Consistency is key when teaching a puppy not to jump up. Within a week of solid training your pooch should show signs of control from jumping on people.

Common Puppy Behavior Problems: Barking & Digging

Gemma | February 26th, 2006
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Barking is completely normal for any dog but it should be considered a problem if it becomes excessive. Most dogs will bark at strangers passing by, and this is to be expected. However, you need to teach your puppy that although some barking is OK, too much barking is not.

Allow your puppy to bark two or three times when someone rings the doorbell, approaches your house or walks past your yard. Don’t let your puppy bark frantically until the person eventually leaves the area.

A Simple Anti-Barking Routine

To train your puppy not to bark excessively, be consistent and plan ahead. Ask a friend to come to your home and ring the doorbell. When the bell rings, your puppy probably will run toward the door and bark.

Take hold of your puppy’s collar at that moment, and say his name and then the cue be quiet. When he listens to you and ceases his barking, praise him heartily. After several practice sessions, your puppy should start to catch on.

Once your puppy has learned to respond reliably to the quiet cue while inside your house, you can begin the training session outdoors in your yard. Ask friends and neighbors to help you with the training by walking past your property or doing whatever else it is that sets your puppy off on a barking spree.

Remember, too, that bored dogs will bark more than those who are getting enough stimulation. If your puppy is barking like crazy at everyone who passes the house, he may need more exercise and stimulation. That way he won’t feel compelled to come up with his own distractions.


The instinct to dig is strong in most dogs and often starts in puppyhood. If your puppy is starting to dig up the yard, you need to intervene before your garden begins to look like a mine field.

The best way to control your puppy’s urge to dig is to give him a spot in the yard where he can dig to his heart’s content. This might be a place where you’ve already seen him digging if you don’t really mind that he digs there. Or, you may want to entice him to dig in an area that is out of the way and not visible from most parts of your yard.

If you catch him digging in a place that is not allowed, correct him by saying NO DIG! and take him to his allowed spot. If he digs in this designated digging area, praise him to let him know he’s got the right idea.

Even though he has his own digging spot, you may find that your puppy still likes to dig in places he shouldn’t. Protect these areas with temporary fencing (like chicken wire) until your puppy gets in the habit of digging only in his designated spot. Eventually, you should be able to take down the fencing and give him the run of the yard.

Adopting A Labrador Retriever – The One Magic Word

Gemma | March 31st, 2005
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One reason many Labrador Retrievers are abandoned to animal shelters is because they jumped on small children, knocking them over or scaring them. A lot of people don’t understand how to manage jumping and when their Lab gets big, jumping isn’t so cute anymore.

People don’t know how to deal with it so they give up on the dog. Once a Lab has reached its full adult size, jumping can become a real problem, but that’s also an easy problem to fix. All it takes is one little word: Sit.

Sit is the solution to over 90% of behavior problems. The sit command is the answer, and it’s the easiest thing in the world to train a dog to do. When a dog is sitting, it can’t be jumping up. Train your newly adopted shelter Lab to sit with big rewards and you’ll see a huge difference in behavior.

Many adult Labs already know the sit command so using it frequently can nip jumping quickly. Even Labs that don’t know the command to sit know how to sit. If you teach the dog to sit on command, you’ve solved all kinds of problems before you ever get to a training class. Labs are so trainable because they want to please you and they want rewards. They really do want to sit for you!

Out Of Control Jumpers

Teaching your dog the off command is necessary for those out-of-control jumpers. Jumping up is the way the Lab expresses how desperate it is for attention. The more hyper you get in response to this behavior, the more excited your Lab becomes. Even yelling is attention to your Lab. Teach him that the only time it will get love and attention is when it is sitting. Ignore it when it jumps on you become a statue, literally.

To teach off you will actually want to invite this excitement from your Lab by acting excited yourself. Then, when it jumps up, cross your arms, turn away and quietly say off. Then wait don’t move, talk or make eye contact.

When the dog realizes it’s not getting any sort of attention, positive or negative, it will get back on the floor. Immediately praise him. Your Lab will get bored fast and try something else, like sitting. That’s when you pour on the praise.

After only a few times, if you are quick and consistent, your Lab will learn that it gets what it craves attention when all four paws are on the floor instead of jumping all over you.