If your dog has chewed up countless possessions or will not stop trying to escape from the yard, you’re not alone. Behavioral issues are one of the top reasons pets are surrendered to animal shelters and rescues, and once they become a habit, they can be tough to manage. Fortunately, you can prevent behavioral issues from developing in the first place, helping shape your pooch into the prize-winning companion you know they can be.
Before your four-legged friend exhibits bad behaviors, stop problems from developing. The following keys are key to preventing behavioral issues in dogs.
#1: Pet-proof your home to keep your dog out of mischief
For dogs of all ages, chewing is an enrichment activity, and they will likely snag any unattended items in your home for a chew toy. Rather than discovering gnawed-on shoes, phone chargers, and trash can contents, ensure your dog can’t get into mischief by pet-proofing your home. Perform a sweep of the rooms they can access, pick up all tempting items, and then store them where your dog cannot reach, or block your dog from items like electrical cords that have to stay out.
In many cases, unsupervised dogs need confinement to prevent them from ingesting toxins or small items that can become lodged in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. You may need to ensure your dog’s safety by confining them to a single room that is pet-proofed to the extreme, or to a cozy kennel.
#2: Continue socializing your dog throughout their entire life
Many pet owners believe that socializing a puppy is no longer necessary after they’ve passed their major socialization period from 6 to 14 weeks of age. However, socialization is a lifelong process that helps your dog remain calm in the face of novel and unsettling experiences. Positive exposure to new situations, environments, people, and animals is essential and should be ongoing to reduce fear-based behaviors, such as reactivity, anxiety, and aggression.
#3: Practice positive reinforcement and negative punishment
Positive reinforcement, which provides the most effective results and strengthens your bond, is the best dog training method. By teaching your dog acceptable behaviors through positive reinforcement, you minimize inappropriate actions. Negative punishment—although the terminology sounds harsh—is another great training method to have in your toolbelt. Negative punishment involves taking away something your dog likes to reduce unwanted behaviors.
Jumping on people is one example where positive reinforcement can be combined with negative punishment in one training technique. Dogs frequently jump up in greeting to seek attention, but the behavior can be problematic when the dog is exuberant or large, or they jump on small children or the elderly. Withholding attention from a jumping dog is a negative punishment practice. Removing the “reward” essentially punishes the dog without shouting or hitting, which are known as positive punishments. Positive reinforcement in the case of the jumping dog would be giving them attention only when they are standing still or seated. While the terminology is confusing, you need to understand and apply these methods correctly to kindly and effectively train your dog.
#4: Devise mental and physical activities for your dog
A bored dog is often a dog who gets into trouble by finding their own entertainment, whether chewing on the furniture, digging under the fence, or barking incessantly at anything that moves. Prevent boredom and associated behavior problems by providing your dog with plenty of mentally and physically enriching activities. Games and exercises that work out not only your dog’s body, but also their mind, are excellent for banishing boredom and warding off behavior problems. Food puzzles, training skills and obedience commands, and canine sports are all fun ways to occupy your dog.
Socialization is essentially a vaccination for behavior problems in dogs, but the process requires actual vaccinations to keep your four-legged friend safe and healthy as they explore their world. So, while you are socializing your dog and they are learning to be calm and well-mannered, also defend them against infectious diseases and parasites. Schedule a vaccination appointment or wellness screening with our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team.