Can I Change My Dog's Bad Habits?
If Scooter has developed bad habits, it's your job to help him unlearn them. Whether your dog has a chewing, barking, jumping, counter-surfing or digging fetish, scolding or punishing him won't make him stop; it might make things worse, or cause him to continue the undesired behavior in your absence. After ruling out medical conditions that could trigger bad habits, learn how to correct his behavior so you can both be happy campers.
Boundaries and Supervision
Restricting Scooter's access can keep him from giving into bad habits, such as chewing off-limit items and raiding the trash. Use baby gates to barricade off-limit areas, or confine him to a crate or dog-proof room when you can't watch him. When you're home, watch him like a hawk. The moment he gives into his bad habit, blow a whistle, shake a can of coins or squirt him with water to break his concentration. With consistency, he'll stop the behavior to avoid the unpleasant consequence.
Use the element of surprise or textures or flavors to teach Scooter right from wrong. If he's chewing inappropriate items, spray them with a commercial dog deterrent that will make him think twice about repeating his behavior; if he's lounging on the couch, spread an upside-down carpet runner over it; if he's digging up the yard, install a motion-detecting sprinkler system to startle him. Do this consistently while you figure out what's triggering his undesired habits.
Rather than punishing bad behavior, reinforce good behavior. Each time you catch Scooter giving into a bad habit, stop him and redirect him to a desired activity. For instance, if he's chewing on your shoe, make a noise and show him a chew toy, or when he's digging up the yard, show him to his digging pit. When he shows interest in the toy or digging pit, praise him lavishly and offer treats to reinforce the good behavior. With consistency, the pleasant consequences might make him want to repeat the good behavior more than the bad.
Enriching Scooter's life can put a stop to undesired behaviors. Many dogs develop bad habits because they're bored or crave attention. To combat this, increase the amount of physical and mental stimulation Scooter's getting. Take long walks and play games with him, provide a variety of toys to play with for home entertainment and regularly practice obedience training. The quality time spent with you and the release of pent-up energy can make Scooter a well-behaved dog.
By Kimberly Caines
About the Author
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.