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. I really want to help you beat those challenges and have a lot of fun training your dog. So I’ve put together 3 important rules to help you get to the bottom of why your dog is misbehaving, and what to do about it.
- Why are some dogs so naughty?
- How to train a naughty dog
- Management vs training
- Working out who is to blame
- Setting your dog up to win
I’ve also created email list to help as many people as possible, with regular tips to keep you going over the next few weeks! These tips should answer many of your dog training questions.
You can get my weekly email tips by popping your email address in that box. You’ll usually receive one or two emails a week. I sometimes add an extra one in, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. There’s an unsubscribe button in every email so you can turn them off when you’re done!
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 the problem rarely lies with the dog. It has almost always 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.
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, is often simply normal puppy behavior.
Things like dealing with not listening, potty accidents, biting and chewing form the basis of our Puppy Parenting course, because they are things that every puppy owner experiences. Puppies being puppies!
That doesn’t mean you have to put up with it indefinitely, but should give you hope and reassurance. This kind of naughtiness is actually normal.
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 that will help you to train successfully. If you read and understand these rules, you’ll find it easier to train your dog.
They underpin how I train my dogs, and how I formed the content in the Foundation Skills online course over at Dogsnet too.
Why do we need these dog training rules?
Principles are the often unwritten, unspoken rules that guide us through our daily lives. Having a set of principles at heart helps us to make the right decisions in all aspects of life, and dog training is no exception.
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
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.
Another good solution is simply to 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 problems.
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 the 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.
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.
Management comes first
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.
How to train a Naughty Dog
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
Emily Jones says
This is a nice one, Pippa. I was just about to give up training on my new puppy who is very naughty.
Reading your blog will help me change my tactic.
Hi we have a 9 month old cocker spaniel she’s is a lovely dog but then she can be so naughty as well she bites very hard and also eats stones and everything she picks up in the garden , she chews the wood in my kitchen and my stairs carpet if I shout at her she just does it more I tried the spray you can buy to stop chewing but this does not work .
Did your dog ever calm down? I have an american cocker spaniel and i’m struggling with the same thing.
He bites back when i tell him off, barks, and runs away or plain ignores and continues doing whatever he’s doing (biting etc)
Would have loved a reply to this, my 8 month old lab is the same
JAYNE MARTIN says
Hi i have a jack russell and he is nearly 7 years old ive tryed everything to stop him being biting sponges up and weeing in the house at night when we are asleep so how can i try and stop all this please if you can help please thank you Jayne
Hi I have 2 Westies, a male rescue whom is 11 and a female that’s around 2 we got from a farm…She’s so cute & Bailey ? loves walks, but is very misbehaved…when it comes to leasing her and putting her harness on ?she’s starts barking…very high pitch and biting her leash and walking zigzag…
and then when she sees another dog she barks like crazy…frustrated trying to walk her! Our rescue Max walks so good!!
Aleshire Mueller says
It seriously got my attention when you said that bribing the dog to do things will not work for long and being too mean to the dog will not end favorably as well. If that is the case, then what kind of training will work for my dog, exactly? Those are the only two things I think I can do. If none of them will work, then perhaps, I need a professional to help my dog for me.
Hi, Thank you for the wonderful article. I have a almost 6 month old big&tall Rough Collie puppy. We have always had Collie girls but never a boy. He is recently neutered. He is an EXTREMELY high energy puppy. We take him for a 4 mile long walk in the morning and even after that he keeps running amok all over the house like getting burst of constant energy waves. That goes on until he can’t. He chews on wood, bites and tears our clothes when jumping, digs in the garden, jumps on all of us and other people during the walk. He doesn’t bark as much as my previous girls. He is really CUTE but we really don’t know how to channel his energy at this point. He is fed well but keeps sniffing for food on the road and if he picks up some trash, we can’t dare to make him drop it unless getting bitten. We took him to a puppy training class in Petco and he calmed down a bit but now that he is growing bigger (now 48 lbs), it’s getting harder to restrain him. He listens to sit, lay-down but runs away on the street the first chance he gets. I could really use some advice. Thank you very much.
Hi Minal, please join the forum for help and support with training your dog . 🙂
I have heard dogs do not like citrus – if you put lime and lemon in a spary water bottle and spray what you dont want them to chew theyre likely not to want to put their mouth around it.
Robert Armas says
To what extent does it take to potty prepare a young doggie?. House instructing your little dog is concerning tolerance, and encouraging feedback. The objective is to ingrain sensible propensities and fabricate an in adoration bond together with your pet. It as a rule takes 4-6 months for a little dog to be absolutely house prepared. Be that as it may, a few young doggies could take up to a year.
I have a 2 year old Westie. I have tried a trainer and reading everything I can but I am completely unable to train my westie not to chase any one of my family members up the stairs. When any one us goes upstairs, he gets very upset and charges towards us while barking and trying to nip our feet. He could be sitting in another room away from the stairs, but if he hears someone approaching the stairs he will jump out of his bed and start the chase.
I have no idea what to do anymore!!!
Hi Christine, Sorry to hear you are having trouble with your Westie. I would recommend taking your dog to see an qualified dog behaviorist, who uses exclusively positive reinforcement methods. Your vet might well be able to give you the details of someone in your area. Best wishes, Lucy
My 5 month old foxie pup is very naughty. For example she will continue to jump very high to grab and pull at anything hanging or eg my dressing gown when wearing. When cuddling her in the morning she just wants to chew. She has many toys she loves but sometimes just wants to chew my fingers. I tell her no she stops for a few seconds I reward her but she cinsistanly chews and wants to bite when I tell her bad.
Another thing she continues to pick up stones of a decent size of putting your thumb and next finger together.
These stones are all in my large garden. She picks one up I tell her bad and take her to the spot put her nose at them shake her by the scruff of the neck and tell her bad in an angry voice.Then she jumps and wants to bite me by snapping. Its like her way if sayi g to me don’t tell me what to do who do you Think you are.
She will continue to pick up the stones straight after she has been told no over and over again as she feels fit and will not listen.
I have her in obedience classes for one day a week now we have been once. I take her for walks with treats to train her she us good mostly on lead.
I’m having a lot if problems when she’s in her big yard to stop her from jumping and wanting to snap bite when she’s Been told bad for her naughtiness.
Please help. U don’t want to hurt her but she makes me angry which I try to walk away when line that but she really pushes my anger button.
I have had cattle dogs mostly in my life never had any problems with them plus I have a foxie Chihuahua who is very well behaved but this foxie just does not listen when off the chain.
I need help with her jumpingb and biting.
And I can not take away the stones its a very large area.
I really need help.
Please don’t scruff and shake your puppy. You will make her MORE bitey and snappy, not less. Follow the rules in the article above and join the forum for help and support with training your puppy
Kel C says
This is the MOST HELPFUL dog training info that I have ever read! Thank you soo much! I have 4 small, very entitled dogs who are like my children..Yet all of them just continue to walk all over me in different ways. Training multiple adult dogs (who are closer to me than to each other). I love them SOO MUCH, yet have continued to fail at basic commands, such as house training. Anyway, great advice and I’m excited to apply it. Thanks, K
I have a 9 week old border collie names leo. I got him at 7 weeks. Hes very quickly learnt how to sit and is just learning how to lay down. Hes very good with his toilet training outside in the garden and very rarely has an accidents. However i have noticed when he gets excited, i can not control him, he doesnt listen to no, i have tried distracting him with treats/toys, loud noises. He sounds like a little cub, growls jumps up and uses his mouth on my arm, my hands my leg, jumps at my face. Im running out of ideas, am i doing something wrong ?
sounds like normal puppy behavior to me. Turn around and ignore him with arms folded when he jumps on you 30 seconds. The teething/mouthing will end.
Ridley Fitzgerald says
It’s good to know that most dogs aren’t actually naughty. We used to have a Pit Bull that was extremely “naughty,” but now I know it was probably our fault. I like how your first tip was to manage the dog before training them. I can see how controlling him or her is vital to training!
Hello I have a beautiful two year old Belgium Malinois that we adopted from the pound. He is actually a very good dog. The only real problem I have is he always wants to charge through the door or down the stairs first. He has just about knocked me down several times doing this. We have been working on sitting before coming in or out of the door and entering slowly but I think I might be doing something wrong. Please help me to correct my training to get rid of this naughty behavior. Thank you. 🙂
Hi DeAnna, do join the forum so that we can help you with your training Ignore the Labrador part – there are many different breeds there. 🙂
I have a beautiful yellow lab , she’s 7 mths old . Her recall is great ( thanks to your puppy guide book ) . She’s friendly with small children and adults alike . She would be the perfect puppy if it was nt for her jumping up and biting my clothes when she’s playing outside and I go to play with her . I have tried ignoring her and standing still . I ve stopped play and then restarted again when she has become less excited , but I can’t seem to get her to stop . She’s practically ruined every jumper/ cardigan I have . On occasions she has nipped and caused bruising . Can you help please . I’m scared she ll do this to a stranger when at my house and they report her and me for being aggressive and I know she really is nt . She only does this in the garden , not on any walks . We only play ball games and find the treat , we do not play any type of tug games that encourage this behaviour . Thank you
Hi, I have a great little shipoo. But….He chases and bites my daughter’s feet, especially when she just put socks on. He also barks at her and jumps to bite her feet or arm while she is eating. Why does he do this? If we get mad (because sometimes our humaness slips out), he goes zonkers. You can distract him sometimes with an exciting activity, but will he really get better if I get up and get him a toy or a treat when he’s naughty?
Have a look at this article Jenny – and feel free to drop into the forum if you need support
Hi I have a Jack Russell mixed with Fox hound. We recently moved in with my Mum in law. She is gone very naughty. She does not eat her food like she used too & she is eating from Bins. She wants to eat junk that my Mum in law gives her. She normally sleeps with us inside but tonight I had to leave her outside to sleep because of being naughty. What advice can you give me to discipline her?
I’m not sure how you think making your dog sleep outside is going to improve her behavior? Perhaps you could explain? The best way to deal with bin raiding is to get a lockable bin, or move the bin where the dog can’t reach it. Pick your battles. Dogs do what works. If getting in the bin is rewarding, they’ll get in the bin. If you take control of the rewards, you get control of your dog
Skylar Williams says
My dog is not very well behaved. He obeys my husband but not me. I’m hoping to find a good training program so that things can be better at home. I think I have your second rule down because I’m sure it’s my fault.
You have the right attitude though Skylar, so you will succeed. A good training program is the way to go.
Alison Nguyen says
Hey, I love reading your articles! I have just adopted a puppy (6 months) jack russel x kelpie, she listens to my commands and has good recall but my only problem with her is when I leave her alone. She’ll pull the clothes line or eat my display plants, this has happened multiple times and I know that she knows it’s wrong as when i come home she gives me a guilty look. Help Please! What can i do to stop this?
Hi Alison, glad you like the articles. Dogs look guilty because they sense you are annoyed and hope you won’t be cross. They are actually really bad at figuring out they have done something wrong unless you catch them right in the middle of it.
Have a look at this article: https://thehappypuppysite.com/how-to-stop-your-dog-stealing/ It explains a bit about what you can do with naughtiness that happens when you are not there.
All pups will eat plants and take things that aren’t theirs I’m afraid, you might want to consider gating off a part of your house or keeping the puppy in one room when you are out. Move your plants etc where she can’t reach them. Just like toddlers, its best to pick your battles, and some ‘crimes’ are easier to prevent than cure. 🙂 Do join the forum for more help and support http://thelabradorforum.com We have other Jack Russell folks there
Pippy smith says
My puppy has been influenced by her mother and she has just started killing our chickens, digging up the garden and chasing the sheep on our farm without being told to.
mary walton says
My daughter as a female cavapoo who is quite naughty she barks at every 1 who comes into the house and will not stop she’s use 2 people also she will not sleep in her bed at night always get’s on the sofa after many telling’s and she will still christen a room when your back is turned and she 2yrs can u help in any way she’s at her wits end many thank’s.
Hi Mary, get your daughter to join the forum, then we can help and support her http://thelabradorforum.com No labradors are required 🙂
Hi can I join even though I have 2 cavapoos who never stop barking at people and objects .thanks
Anyone can join the forum Bev 🙂
Hi I have a Yorkshire trrior who barks at any visitors and also other dogs when walking how can I socialise him he is now 4 years old
My dog is a local dog and he is extremely naughty.Whenever I intend to train him,he just runs away and he always bites my leg.I don’t know what to do
Hello, my family and I just adopted a new puppy, however, he is very notty. He barks at my Tortoise, he cries in his cage and rips up his potty training sheets, he bites, and he hates going outside. Can you please help me?
~ Thank You!
EILEEN GODFREY says
hi we have just had a rescue lab female about 9 months old.
Shes lovely gets on well with my 2 year old lab also rescue we had him when he was 14 months old we have turned him round now a lovely boy.
The question I want to ask you the puppy is fine in day time but as soon as we sit down in evening she cries and barks even though shes in lounge with us ?