Do you have a dog who thinks that they pay the mortgage, therefore they make the rules? Do you have a dog who is pushy and demanding … basically an annoying pain in the butt? Do you have a dog who doesn’t understand self control and needs constant entertainment?
Here are THREE easy things that you can do to help mitigate these behaviours and teach your dog that they need to follow your lead and that you don’t follow their demands.
#1 Ignore Your Dog
This is the hardest, easiest thing to do to significantly change your dogs behaviour. I don’t mean you can’t walk them, train or play with them, but what I do mean is cut out all of that excessive extra attention and affection that you give for no reason. Ignore the demanding, pushy behaviour (sometimes a correction is needed for over the top stuff) and stop being your dogs sole source of entertainment. Dogs do what works, and if being a jerky, rude, pushy brat works to get them attention (they’ll take positive or negative in the moment, they don’t care) or gets them entertainment (and trust me, you are very entertaining when you get frustrated), they will keep on doing it because, well, it works. Not an easy task to ignore that cute little (or big) furry bundle beside you, I get it, but it is amazing the results if you can actually do this properly. And remember, staring at your dog, talking to them, and touching them is all forms of reward – make sure you are not doing these things in the wrong moment or when trying to ignore.
#2 Use A Leash
In the house? Yep, in the house. If you have a dog that is not fully trained, the only way that you have to control them is a leash. We use leashes a lot on new puppies for control and preventing bad behaviour from becoming habit, and you can do the same with an older dog. Drag lines (supervised) or umbilical lines work wonders for controlling behaviours and enforcing rules without having to get physical or frustrated. You can also easily reinforce obedience when you have the leash on and available, which enables to you help your dog understand that when you ask something of them, they need to follow through. You can also use the leash to prevent, redirect or remove a dogs when situations warrant it.
#3 Reward What You Like
You can create calm and control with food … you really can, I’ve done it more than a million times (sort of an exaggeration, likely closer to 800,000 but you get the point). Reward, offered at the correct time, when the dog is in the right state of mind can help to capture good and wanted behaviours, offers your dog a clear YES, keep doing this please, and doesn’t project the same energy on to the dog as touch or verbal praise can sometimes do. And the state of mind that you are looking for is CALM. It doesn’t mean you have to constantly feed your dog, and the best way to approach this is using your dogs meals, or a high quality kibble substitute portioned out throughout the day. This ensures that you are not over-feeding, builds some awesome, appropriate behaviours and hand feeding is an excellent way to use a resource to show our dog that you control control that resource, and not the other way around.
When I come in to see dogs who are showing problem type behaviours, it is typically because being pushy and demanding or throwing tantrums has worked for many dogs, and it has a snowball effect in all areas of the dogs life. Dogs with no rules, and dogs who get to call the shots are stressful to live with, and create frustration for everyone, however, they are often, with some exceptions, owner created. They can also be owner overhauled quite easily with some consistency and clarity. Sometimes it may get a little worse before it gets better, as the dogs are testing what they usually get away with, but if you persist (like for real, not just for two days), you will come out in the end with a different dog. Dogs do not display bad behaviours because they are jerks – they do it because it works. This is the most important thing to remember.