We love our dogs, flaws and all. A little barking, leash pulling, or mess is a small price to pay for the unconditional love and happiness they provide. But if your dog’s lack of manners is disrupting the entire household, it may be time to look at some helpful solutions. If your dog has one of these common issues, here are some dog training tips and tricks you may not have tried yet. See, you can teach an old dog new tricks!
Jumping up when greeting
The key to solving this issue is showing your dog to only greet with “four on the floor.” Even better, greet when seated: calm and attentive. This is especially important for older or very young visitors; an over enthusiastic welcome can be dangerous and stressful. Here are a couple of things you can do:
- Keep your attention and your hands away from your dog unless his front paws are on the floor.
- Immediately give your dog attention the instant her front feet land on the floor—petting, scratching, etc.
- When your dog starts to jump up, stand still, look straight ahead (not at your dog), and pull your hands and arms up to your chest. You can also rotate your body away from the dog. Calmly wait for your dog to stop jumping.
- When her front paws touch the floor, immediately look at her and calmly stroke her. If she gets excited and jumps up again, straighten back up and repeat the sequence.
- Get friends or neighbors to practice door greetings with you. That way, you can relax and take the time you need to get the correct response from your dog before you even open the door.
Excessive barking at greeting
Everyone loves a happy and exuberant dog, but overly excited and out of control dogs can be a nuisance. Of course we want our dogs to bark to alert us of danger or problems, so it’s important to be tactful in our approach to curtailing excessive barking. Allowing the dog to bark a few times before asking for quiet helps build impulse control in your dog and prevents his excitement from getting out of hand.
- Allow your dog to bark three to four times, then say “Quiet.” Avoid shouting. Just say the command clearly and calmly.
- Go to your dog, and gently hold his muzzle closed with your hand and repeat “Quiet.” Release your dog’s muzzle, step away, and call him away from the door or window.
- Ask your dog to sit and give him a treat. If he stays beside you and remains quiet, continue to give him frequent treats for the next few minutes, until whatever triggered his barking is gone.
- If your dog resumes barking right away, repeat the sequence above. Do the same outside if he barks at passersby when he’s in the yard.
- If the “Quiet” procedure is ineffective after 10 to 20 attempts, then allow your dog to bark 3 to 4 times, calmly say “Quiet,” and then immediately make a startling noise by shaking a set of keys or an empty soda can filled with pennies. If your dog is effectively startled by the sound, he’ll stop barking.
Begging at the table
We all want to spoil and love our dogs, but some behaviors need to be nipped in the bud before they turn into a lifetime of irritation. What starts as adorable begging can quickly escalate into food stealing, counter surfing, even guarding behaviors. Separate or distract a begging dog. Work toward a sit-stay in an appropriate area while the family eats. Dog-safe leftovers can be fed from a bowl after dinnertime.
- If your dog has not yet developed the begging habit, don’t encourage it. Ignore the dog while seated at the table. No petting, no attention, no tidbits. If food is dropped in the dining room, pick it up. If you allow the dog to be your vacuum during dinner, he will always feel welcome in the space.
- If it’s too late and the whining and barking at mealtime has already begun, prevent begging by controlling your dog’s access to the table.
- Remove access with a baby gate.
- If your dog is crate trained, put him in the crate during meal times
- Ask for a sit-stay on a nearby, but out of reach, bed or mat.
- Provide a bone or filled kong to occupy the dog’s attention during the meal.
Pulling on the leash
When you walk at a good pace, more than likely your pooch trots along to keep up and has fewer opportunities to “stop and smell the flowers,” but when things slow down, pulling can become a frustrating problem. Remember: every second your dog is on the leash, you are either training or untraining behaviors in your dog. Mix up your pace, use positive reinforcement to maintain your dog’s attention, and be the leader in your walks.
- Consider the full range of harnesses, leads, and collars available to you. What works like magic on one dog could be aggravating to another. You might get a loan from a friend or your trainer to try out a piece of equipment that you are interested in but not ready to buy.
- Make yourself the focus of your dog’s attention by setting the pace. Even if you only have a few minutes of speed walking in you, try starting your walk quickly and with purpose. For the “speed” portions of your walk, try using a shorter leash length until he reliably keeps up. On the shorter leash, if you sense your dog about to surge ahead, you can try a gentle squeeze on the leash, or to physically step ahead of him to block his rush. If he responds to the gentle squeeze by looking at you or slowing his speed always praise him immediately! In the fast portion of your walk, as your dog responds better to your cues, try more randomized, circuitous routes. You want the dog to be attentive to you, not just following a pre-planned route every day!
- For slower “loose leash” portions of your walk, check in with your dog regularly by saying her name, making a specific noise, or a gentle squeeze on the leash. If she makes eye contact with you in response to your signal, praise him or give him a treat. Start out easy by trying to get his attention when he isn’t distracted and slowly work up to asking for his attention in more and more distracting environments.
- If your dog gallops ahead, try turning immediately in a circle. If you are concerned about your dog getting jerked at the end of the leash when you turn, try saying a word or phrase like, “with me!” or, “come on!” to regain his attention, or try calling his name or giving the leash a gentle squeeze to get eye contact. Most dogs figure out quite quickly that if pulling doesn’t get them where they want to go, they may as well play your game. Reward or praise any eye contact or effort on his part to follow along with you.
- Using consistent lengths of leash for close walking and loose leash walking really helps your dog understand what range you expect him to move in. You can put a couple knots in your leash for consistency. Avoid retractable leashes until your dog has a reliable recall and won’t injure himself running against the end of it.
Adopting an older dog has its challenges and benefits. It can take time to figure out where they are in terms of training and housebreaking—especially if they come from a hoarding or breeding situation. For some folks, being able to skip the puppy stage and having the gratification of rescuing a less adoptable animal more than makes up for a little accident here or there. If your dog has no medical reason for urinating indoors, you will need to use your investigative skills to look for any patterns in the places, times, or situations that end in a puddle. The ASPCA has a great article here for solving some of the most common behavioral-based house training issues. If your new friend just needs a refresher course in house manners, you can restart them just like a puppy.
- Establish a routine. Take your dog out first thing in the morning, 20 minutes after every meal, last thing before bed, and anytime he looks like he might be ready to go. Better to err on the side of caution and take some extra pit stops during this important learning phase.
- Supervise the potty break. Go outside with your dog or take him on the leash for every potty break. This way you can reward the good behavior, or work on establishing a training word for peeing on command if you so desire. Training your dog to ring a bell hung on your backdoor is a great trick too.
- Supervise or crate/confine at all times indoors. Just like with a puppy, you need to be present to reinforce the good behavior. If you have to step away, using a crate or putting the dog into a small space (such as a bathroom) will naturally help keep him from peeing. Most dogs prefer not to soil where they sleep, and will hold it on their own in a confined space.
- Reward the wanted behavior and ignore the unwanted behavior. No need to rub his nose in it or shout at him for accidents. If you do catch him in the act, a loud startling noise may stop him from continuing, though! A can of pennies or jingly keys might be just the thing to get his attention mid-stream.
Do you have a training issue not covered here that you’d like to see covered in a post? Let us know in the comments!