Best selling author and founder of the Dogsnet Online Training Courses, Pippa Mattinson, takes a look at how to train a naughty dog.
When you are struggling with a naughty puppy, or trying to cope with a difficult adult dog, you can feel very alone.
It can be difficult to decide what to do next.
Or you might find yourself trying to focus on specific aspects of your dog’s behavior, when in fact the problem is both more general and more simple.
Let’s take a look at 3 important rules to help you get to the bottom of why your dog is misbehaving, and what to do about it.
Why is my dog so naughty?
One of the first things people ask themselves when they are dealing with a naughty dog is ‘why?’
The assumption is often that there is a problem with the dog. Fortunately (because that would be harder to fix) the problem rarely lies with the dog and almost always has arisen because of the way that the dog has been managed or trained.
This is good news, because we can then reverse that naughtiness by starting afresh and treating the dog differently with a well thought out program of training.
We’ll look a bit closer at that in a moment.
Why is my puppy so naughty?
This advice above applies as much to naughty puppies as it does to older dogs.
Though when it comes to puppies, much of what is often thought of as naughtiness, things like not listening, running off, biting, digging and chewing etc, is often simply normal puppy behavior.
That doesn’t mean you have to put up with it indefinitely, but should give you hope and reassurance, because this kind of naughtiness is something that all puppy parents have to deal with.
How to train a naughty dog or puppy
When you are deciding how to train a naughty dog or puppy, it’s important that you stick to the following principles or rules which will help you to train successfully
We are not going to be looking at specific training instructions here, because these are rules that apply to the overall training process, rather than specific details of any one part of it.
However, if you read and understand these rules, you’ll find it easier to train your dog
Why do we need these dog training rules?
Principles are the often unwritten, unspoken rules that guide us through our daily lives.
With naughty dogs, it is often tempting to let all our principles fly out the window, and to react in haste, without considering the outcome.
Writing these dog training principles down in the form of a set of rules, helps to keep us on the right path as we train our dogs
When you are trying to train a naughty or difficult dog or puppy, it is easy to get distracted and stray from the path of good training. So it’s even more important than ever, that you stick to rules or principles which will help you to train successfully
Let’s have a look at the first rule
Rule 1: Dog management before dog training
So many people try to train their dog, in situations where they cannot control the outcome. For example, they try and teach their off leash puppy to come when they call him on the beach, where there are seagulls to chase.
You must manage your dog before you try and train him.
This will often mean using a long line attached to his harness.
The fact is you cannot, for example, teach a dog not to chase rabbits, while still allowing him to continue to chase rabbits.
Or a teach a puppy not to chase seagulls while he is chasing seagulls.
You need to be able to control what happens when you give him a cue or command. Yet many people fail to do this.
If you want to succeed in teaching a dog not to be naughty, you need to train an alternative behavior in the situations where naughtiness was occurring.
Or simply deny him the opportunity to indulge in the naughty behavior in the first place. This is often the best approach to take with common puppy behaviors
For example, if you don’t want your puppy to chew the corners of your best rugs and cushions, put a baby gate across the living room door so he cannot go in there unsupervised
A puppy play pen is another option for large open plan houses.
And before a dog can learn the nice ‘alternative’ behavior you want such as coming to your whistle, he often needs to be prevented from carrying out a bad behavior such as running in the opposite direction.
It’s a bit like prevention before cure, it makes sense whichever way you look at it.
Rule 2: Assume it is your fault, not your dog’s.
This is a tough one. Especially if you absolutely KNOW that your dog is being naughty. You’ve taught him to SIT and he knows what it means, and now he won’t sit unless it pleases him
How can that possibly be your fault?
Someone once posted a comment on one of my websites, asking why I implied a problem was the owner’s fault when it was clearly the fault of the dog?
And I can emphasize with this. I really can.
Easy dogs, difficult dogs
Some dogs are incredibly challenging while other dogs are just so easy that the average five year old could train them.
But the fact is, all dogs can be trained. Even the difficult ones, and by difficult we usually mean distracted.
Dogs are easy to train if they are not very interested in other people, or in other dogs. And if they don’t much like hunting or running around. But you know, this does not include very many young dogs.
Most people will have challenges training a young and healthy dog, because dogs like to do things that we don’t want them to do.
Most dogs will be distracted by certain situations, and the solution to that is to train the dog to obey while under distraction. Fortunately this can be done
But is my dog is so naughty
Many times, when dogs and puppies are naughty, it is because they are distracted. You know how easy it is to get your puppy to SIT when the two of you are alone together, and how it all falls apart when other dogs are around, or when the kids come home from school
Training a dog to obey you in the presence of intense distractions is quite a straightforward process.
But it can be time consuming, and it begins with you accepting responsibility. That is often the longest part!
But here’s the important thing.
As long as the dog is being blamed, he isn’t being trained.
It is important, for example, to take responsibility for the fact that our dog is still being distracted by other dogs, and to actively start training him to obey while other dogs are around.
How to do this is the subject of a number of other articles. So if you are struggling in this respect, check these two out
- My dog is really good except for..
- Training your dog with distractions:or how to cure selective deafness
Rule 3: Make your dog a winner
Winning – or ‘getting it right’ is as pleasing to dogs as it is for us! They love the rewards that come with a winning behavior, the treats, the games, the attention. Its all good. And winning FEELS good.
Yet so often we set our dogs up to fail.
We are in a hurry. We set the bar too high, or we don’t reinforce behaviors effectively so that the dog loses heart and interest in the whole training process.
Common causes of dog training failure include:
- Bribing instead of rewarding
- Poor quality rewards
- Infrequent rewards
- Teaching too many skills at once
- Making tasks too complex
Don’t be tempted to bribe your dog to behave, bribing is not a long term solution to anything. And don’t be mean with your training rewards, especially when teaching new behaviors, or training old behaviors in new and more challenging environments.
Not sure how bribing differs from rewarding with food? Find out how to use food (and other rewards) effectively here: How To Choose and Use Effective Rewards in Dog Training
Remember to make tasks attainable. Don’t increase duration, or distraction to the next level, until the dog is competent at this one. Get one skill really fluent before teaching the next.
It may seem like common sense, but its easy to get carried away, and end up with a dog that is failing more than he is succeeding.
How to train a naughty dog – a summary
Many unwanted behaviors are highly rewarding to dogs. These include behaviors like jumping up, chasing, playing with other dogs etc.
You have no chance of training nice alternative behaviors like ‘coming when called’, or greeting people in a ‘sit’ while still allowing the dog to continue with previous bad behavior.
Management must come before training, failing to ensure this is once more setting yourself and your dog up to fail.
Accepting responsibility for your dog’s bad behavior is a critical key to training success. Once you have done this, you will be empowered to change the way you control his behavior, and therein lies success.
Finally you need to set your dog up to win throughout the entire training process, and this often means breaking training down into baby steps, and putting some thought and planning into the time you spend training together.
This can seem daunting at first but it is hugely rewarding and even enjoyable, once you get into the rhythm and habit of daily training sessions.
So there we have it
- Manage first, train second
- Take responsibility
- Make your dog a winner
These three principles have been very helpful to me. I hope you find them useful too. You might also enjoy our in-depth article on disobedience: Disobedient Dog- What To Do When Your Dog Won’t Obey You
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