Correcting Canine Behaviors


How can a dog owner begin changing undesirable behaviors in his pet?


Obedience training is not just about teaching your dog to respond to basic commands like “stand” or “come.” Genuine obedience training also focuses on remedying negative behaviors that may be causing your dog to become troublesome to be with at home.


Dog owners often tell me that their pets at home are “perfect except for {insert negative behaviors}.” There are always small, negative details that dog owners would like to change through obedience training.


If you are a conscientious and loving dog owner, then you deserve a well-behaved and happy dog. Know that you can achieve any training milestone if you are aware of the proper ways of redirecting and correcting a misbehaving dog.


Below are some guidelines to help jumpstart your training sessions with your dog:


  1. Act Like a Pack Leader – If you are already enforcing rules and you’ve introduced your dog to a stable social structure with you at the helm, you have to be consistent with your role and with the activities that you deem acceptable.


What type of activities should not be allowed?


You have to avoid activities that may change how your dog sees you within the social structure.


Activities that may lower your position within the human pack include wrestling with your dog, rolling around in the grass and allowing your dog to pull things away from you.


As a general rule, if your dog becomes rough at any point during playtime, you must stop the activity completely. Why? Because in natural pack formations, dogs stop their activity if something is wrong. This is how alpha dogs teach their members about behavioral limitations that are enforced within the pack.


On the flipside, you have to make sure that your dog is also disallowed from performing actions and activities that elevate it to your level.


For example, it is completely out of the question to let your dog sleep on your bed at night or at any point during the day. The alpha dog’s place of rest is off limits to all other members of the pack and this rule should be respected at all times.


You must also redirect or correct your dog when it wishes to eat with you on the dining table.


I’ve seen some folks who feed their dogs from their hands as they are eating at the table. This may seem like a “cute” behavior but it’s not. The dog is slowly usurping authority from the pack leader by acting this way.


  1. Regulate Instinctual Responses – Like other animals, dogs have countless instinctual impulses that are embedded deep in their genetic code. These instinctual impulses are beyond the realm of “right and wrong” because they are hardwired to be associated with the dog’s survival in the wild.


The problem with some of these instinctual impulses is that they can become destructive habits.


For example, many domestic dogs have a natural tendency to scratch and dig the ground for no clear reason or purpose. In the wild, dogs do this to find bugs and other tasty morsels to eat. If you allow your dog to do the exact same activity at home, you may end up with scratched floorboards or damaged carpeting.


When your dog begins showing problematic instinctual behavior, you have to quick and firm in correcting the behavior.


Here are some situations where fast correction needs to be carried out:


  1. Running Outside Before You – The alpha dog has to be the one leading the pack. Your dog’s function is to follow you no matter what. If your dog is unable to grasp this concept unleashed, place a leash on your dog before walking outside. Your pet should trail you from behind. During a structure walk, your dog should be behind you or by your side but never ahead of you.


  1. Territorial Marking – Male dogs will try to urinate and mark their perceived territories. A slight pull on a dog’s leash will distract it from marking any spot.


You must enforce a “no peeing” rule and your dog must only urinate at a single, designated area in your back yard. Do not physically punish your dog – simply redirect it and physically lead it to its designated area where it can urinate.


  1. Ground Scratching – You may have noticed your dog scratching the ground slightly after it has urinated. This may seem like an innocuous “doggy habit” that isn’t important but it is actually associated with dominance and leadership.


A dog that frequently scratches the ground after urinating is effectively performing a headstand to show that it is capable of dominance.


Tug at your dog’s leash immediately when you see this behavior and give your command (e.g. “no” or “stop”). Reward your dog when it complies with your command. Remember to repeat this process every time the instinctual behavior surfaces.

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