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Dogs behaving badly


Got a mischievous mutt or petulant pooch? Not sure how to deal with your dog’s bad behaviour? Then read on for some top tips and ideas from the ‘petsperts’ in the know… 

If your dog’s behaviour has left you scratching your head or sighing in exasperation, you’re not alone. Many of us fight a constant struggle with pets that chew, dig, bark excessively or go to the toilet where they shouldn’t. It’s easy to dismiss these dogs as badly behaved, but the reality is more complex than that…

 

Why we’re part of the problem


Most ‘bad’ dog behaviour shouldn’t actually be framed in this way. “Rather than considering behaviour as good or bad, it's helpful to consider them as desirable or undesirable. This removes any confusion around the dog’s intentions,” says Katie Catherwood from Melbourne’s Heads & Tails Pet Care Services.

Chewing, barking and digging are examples of normal dog behaviour. But if your dog is doing any of these things excessively or intensely, there are grounds to take action. “Some dogs will perform these behaviours excessively due to impoverished environments and boredom, while some may have mental issues,” explains Dr Andrew O’Shea from the Australian Veterinary Association.

It’s our responsibility to keep our four-legged friends stimulated, so if boredom is a factor, it’s up to us to take action. Regular socialisation with other dogs is essential, and if they’re going to be home alone for long periods during the day, be sure to leave stimulating toys such as sturdy nylon bones or treat-dispensing balls.

 

Back to school


Most ‘bad’ dog behaviour shouldn’t actually be framed in this way. “Rather than considering behaviour as good or bad, it's helpful to consider them as desirable or undesirable. This removes any confusion around the dog’s intentions,” says Katie Catherwood from Melbourne’s Heads & Tails Pet Care Services.

Rather than considering behaviour as good or bad, it's helpful to consider them as desirable or undesirable. This removes any confusion around the dog’s intentions

Katie Catherwood

Melbourne’s Heads & Tails Pet Care Services

If your dog… is struggling with toilet training


“You should head right back to basics, as if you are training a new puppy,” says Amy Smith.

She strongly recommends crate-training puppies – providing a large, comfortable crate where your pup can retreat when you’re out or he needs some chill-out time. This is a great training tip as it restricts their access to certain parts of your home – and gives them their own space at the same time. “The dog doesn’t understand that your house is your family's living area to be kept clean. If you give them full access to your home, they might toilet in inappropriate locations,” she explains. Next step is to take the puppy outside to toilet every 30 minutes. Reward the deed with praise, food treats or a game. If your dog’s toilet trouble is sudden, it could be a medical issue - a trip to the vet is in order. According to Dr O’Shea, the most important thing when toilet training dogs is consistency. “Always remember that dogs will go to the toilet immediately or fairly soon after eating, drinking, waking up and stopping playing, so you must get the dog to the toileting area at these times.”

 

If your dog… jumps on guests


If you don’t want your puppy to jump up on people when you answer the door, have the puppy on lead to prevent him from being able to do so in the early weeks. Combine this with diligent “sit” training and he’ll soon learn to park his butt when visitors arrive.

 

If your dog… won’t come when called


This is one of Smith’s pet peeves. “It’s often the owner’s fault. Dogs that don’t come back when called shouldn’t be off the lead.” As with other behaviour, reward-based training will help your dog learn this.

 

If your dog… barks excessively


It’s possible your dog is barking because he’s bored, experiencing separation anxiety or fear. Properly socialising your dog using reward-based training will help. “Puppies should have positive experiences with everything they deal with in their lives, such as animals, traffic, bikes and loud sounds,” explains Smith. It’s this that can ultimately reinforce ‘desirable’ dog behaviours. Amy Smith’s Sound Proof Puppy Training app ($4.99) is available from the iTunes store^.

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