It's one thing to teach your dog useful behaviors like sit, down and stay, but what should you do when your dog is doing something you don't want him to do? Dogs never seem to run out of ways to get into trouble, whether it's barking like a maniac out the window, chewing on your slippers, or chasing the family cat.
Life is a lot more pleasant if you know how to respond swiftly and effectively when Duke is doing something he shouldn't.
WHAT NOT TO DO? It's worth taking a moment to discuss what not to do, because many of our typical responses aren't very helpful.
For example, it seems to be oh-so-human to respond to misbehavior by saying something to our dog that is meaningful to us, but not to her.
How many of us have said "Be quiet!" to a barking dog, and never stopped to think that the words are just meaningless noise to anyone other than English speakers? The tendency to yell pointlessly at our dogs sounds foolish when you read about it, but it's a common response when an animal is doing something we don't like.
We make things worse by repeating the words at a louder and louder volume, as if yelling will clarify what we are trying to communicate.
That's true no matter what kind of animal we're talking to-recently I watched two men try to disentangle a "cattle jam" by yelling "Turn around, TURN AROUND!" to a frightened cow.
Granted, you could teach a cow to turn around on cue, but it was doubtful that this particular cow had been the beneficiary of any such training.
Remember this story when you are tempted to yell at your dog, and work on getting into the habit of only using words that mean something to her.
Last, but not least, don't take the advice about "getting dominance over your dog" as a solution to misbehavior.
Dogs aren't barking out the window or chasing squirrels because they don't respect you as the "alpha pack leader.
" They're barking, chasing and chewing because that's what dogs do, and because they haven't yet had a chance to learn behavior that we consider polite.
Our primary job is to teach our dogs what we do want them to do, rather than scold them for what we don't.
WHAT TO DO? The first question to ask yourself when your dog is misbehaving is what do you want your dog to be doing instead? You can say "no" until you're blue in the face, but that won't tell your dog what you want him to be doing.
After all, there are a thousand things your dog could be doing wrong, and if you say "no" to one, there are still 999 options left.
However, there are only a few things that you would like your dog to be doing-your job is to teach him what they are, even when he has other ideas.
Let's take barking out the window as an example.
Imagine you've just settled down to eat your dinner, and your dog sees a couple with a stroller walking past your house.
Your dog leaps up and launches into vigorous barking and scratching at the window.
If you sit at the table and yell "no," you aren't telling your dog anything about what he should be doing instead.
Even worse, you are probably adding fuel to the fire by making bark-like noises yourself-what is your dog to think but that you've joined the festivities and that he was right to bark in the first place? However,what if you quietly grab a treat from your plate (hey, sometimes you have to be creative), go to your dog and distract him with the treat an inch from his nose? Now you've ensured that you've gotten his attention and distracted him away from the source of his barking.
If you lure him away from the window and ask him to sit and lie down, you've just shown him what you do want him to do.
By interrupting the problem behavior and then redirecting him to something appropriate, you've turned a problem situation into a "teachable moment.
" You can make a mental note that barking out the window could be an issue that needs your attention, and that you need to proactively teach him a different response when he sees people walking by.
You can do that by using your trusty treats or toys to reinforce him every time he turns away from the window after seeing something outside, helping him when necessary by luring him away or clapping your hands to get his attention.
Eventually he'll do it all by himself, having learned it's fun to turn away from the window when he sees someone outside.