Training Dog Techniques to Break Bad Habits

In some ways, dogs aren't so different than humans. They can develop bad habits just as easily as their human owners can. Barking for attention, begging for food, digging up the flowers, jumping on visitors and getting in the garbage are just a few of the many bad habits your dog might have. What you may not realize is that in many cases, your own behavior reinforces your dog's habit and encourages it to continue. In order to help your dog change bad habits and behave more appropriately, you will have to spend some time training, and examining a few bad habits of your own.

  1. Positive Reinforcement Training

    • The positive reinforcement method of dog training eliminates the use of harsh corrections or punishments that can injure, frighten or ruin your relationship with your dog. Instead, it relies on using treats and praise to reward appropriate behavior and teach basic commands. When a correction is issued, it comes in the form of a noise to interrupt a behavior. For example, if your dog is in the garbage, whistling or clapping to get his attention is the way to correct it. When your dog looks at you, reward it for doing so. Rewarding your dog's good behavior helps you teach your dog what it is allowed to do as well as what it isn't. Positive reinforcement can help you break your dog's bad habits by helping you teach it an alternative course of action.

    No Freebies

    • Use positive reinforcement techniques to teach your dog how to sit, lie down, come and stay. Use treats to show it what you want, and reward it for getting it right. Once your dog masters the tricks, start using reinforcement to help break your dog's bad habits. For example, one habit your dog might develop is rushing out the door as soon as it opens. When your dog knows how to sit and stay on command, start asking it to do so before you open the door. Never allow it outside until you have released it from stay. Have your dog perform a trick or obey a command to earn a meal or attention. This puts you in the position of pack leader and teaches your dog how it must behave to get what it wants.

    Ignore the Behavior

    • Some habits, such as barking for attention, jumping up or begging are easy to reinforce without knowing it. What your dog wants when it behaves this way is attention or food. Ask yourself how often you give your dog table scraps or throw the ball just to get it to stop barking at you. When your dog jumps up, you might push it away and tell it to get down. Negative attention is better than no attention, and you are teaching your dog that it gets what it wants. Next time your dog seeks your attention, simply ignore it until it stops the behavior. Give it the attention it wants when it stops barking or all of its paws are on the floor. This will teach your dog that these behaviors earn it nothing, and the habits will change.

    Provide an Alternative

    • In some cases, habits that humans view as bad are simply instinct for dogs. Digging is an example of this. Habits like digging are difficult to break because the dog is fulfilling an instinctive need. It will be easier for you to provide an alternative for your dog. A digger, for example, can be taught where to dig more easily than it can be taught not to dig. Fill a sandbox or child's pool with dirt. Bury treats in the dirt. Interrupt your dog when you catch it digging in your flower bed and then guide it to the sandbox. Encourage it to dig there. It will be rewarded with the treats and further praise from you. Continue doing this until your dog automatically digs only in its designated area.

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