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Canine Behavior: Barking, Jumping & Chewing

Getting the most out of your relationship with your dog starts with your dog’s behavior. Here are some ways you can promote good behavior at home.

Communicate. Dogs communicate with each other through their body language. Did you know you can communicate with them this way too? Pay attention to the signals your dog is sending you, such as when they want to eat, go outside, or play. Understanding these signals will allow you to teach your dog the appropriate way of telling you what they want. For example, if you know that your dog barks when he wants to eat, you can ignore this negative behavior and reward him when he sits by his food bowl quietly.

Teach good manners. Social skills aren’t just important for humans. Teach your dog to sit before interacting with you or any other human. This will eliminate jumping and other unwanted behaviors. And contrary to the common expression, you can teach an old dog new tricks. It’s easy to teach a puppy or adult dog to sit. First, hold a small treat in your hand and place your hand close to your pet’s nose. Then slowly raise your hand above and over his nose. As your pet moves his head back to follow the treat, eventually he will sit. As soon as he does, say “sit” and reward him with the treat. It won’t take long for your dog to associate the word “sit” with a reward.

Reward good behavior. Many pet owners forget to praise their dog’s good behavior, but have no trouble remembering to scold their bad behavior. Your dog will respond better if you reward wanted behaviors and ignore unwanted behaviors.

Ignore or interrupt unwanted behavior. Instead of scolding your dogs for bad behavior, it is more effective to ignore them. Why? Dogs want your attention, so withholding it is a powerful passive punishment. For example, if your dog jumps on you, trying to push him away or even just looking at him or talking to him will translate as attention to your dog. Instead, cross your arms, look away, and remain silent until he stops jumping. When your dog realizes that his behavior will not win your attention and stops, reward him with praise and a treat. Another effective method is to interrupt the bad behavior. Try calling your dog by his name. When he looks at you, give him a treat. This will teach your pet that paying attention to you is good. You can also try making a loud, unusual sound. Once this makes your dog pay attention to you, you can ask him to come or sit.

Play! You can teach good behavior in your play with your dogs. Puppies need to learn to play with toys only and that they cannot bite or chew their human friends. While you are playing with your puppy, if he grabs your hand or foot, ignore or interrupt the behavior. When he stops, give him a toy to hold in his mouth and resume playing.