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Training Your Dog Out of His Bad Habits

Updated on June 5, 2019

Don't Get Rid of The Dog, Just the Bad Behavior

So many people have asked me things like how do I break my dog from barking, digging, chewing, running away and not coming when I call, escaping from the yard, and a few more common bad habits.

I had a hound that ran away from home constantly, and the solution to that problem? There wasn't one. A hound dog will run off no matter what you do in the way of training, or kenneling, or any other possible way to keep him home, for it is just in his blood to run and explore. A search for a scent, any scent is in their nature. They will hunt every second of their life that they can. This is why it is so important to research the type of breed of dog you are going to get, for some breeds just do things that you will never get them to stop.

My border collie herded everything into the house and yard and neighborhood every chance he got. He would escape my yard on a regular basis, and go across the street to the cattle ranch, and go out to the fields and herd in all the cattle into the back yard of my neighbor, until he had them all grouped up on the man's patio. He would then keep them there as long as he could. What did I do about it? I told the man I didn't know who the dog belonged to!!!!

I am going to take each problem one at a time, and give you the best advice I know as a possible solution ---

  • Running away and not coming back when called. -- This has to be one of the most irritating problems your dog can do, besides being dangerous if you are around traffic. If the animal is a puppy, simple obediance training is in order. An older dog that does this, is a different story. Most of the time an older dog will come when called when captive, or on a leash, but loose will not. There is a trick to breaking this habit. Put a light weight choker on the dog, and attach a piece of heavy duty fishing line so the animal cannot detect it. Let the dog think he is loose, and call him using the dogs name, and then the come command. If he bolts in another direction, step on the fishing line, and he will think you have some magical powers enabling you to stop him. Giving him the come command until he does come back to you no matter where you are. Do this several times a day until you feel he is trustworthy.
  • Digging--digging is done for several reasons. Dogs like doxies are bred to hunt badgers and other animals that tunnel. They will dig no matter what. Puppies dig and should just be scolded. Dogs will also dig if they are hot, if the weather is hot, digging down to the damp soil and will lay in it to stay cool. Other than these situations, the dog who habitually digs for no reason can be stopped by filling any hole they dig with water from the hose. Take the dog to the hole, using a leash, and put his nose in the water for a few seconds. This does not hurt them but gives them a bad association with holes. This should only be done as a last resort after all other disciplines have failed.
  • Chewing up shoes, or clothing, or items from the room, like pillows, etc. Chewing is usually a puppy thing. Puppies like small children chew on things when they are teething. It does not last too long, and if you get knuckle bones from the butcher, or toys, or the rawhide bones that they sell in the grocery store. These are better if you soak them in hot water or soup before you give them to the dog. Usually a substitute chew toy will suffice the problem. Sometimes giving the dog one of your old shoes to keep as his own works. Do not leave the dog alone with these items for they will be a source of temptation until the problem is defeated.
  • Barking --either while you are home, or while you are away, causing the neighbors to complain.. Dogs who bark nonstop usually do this because they are either bored, or feeling stress. Dogs, as with people need to relieve stress with excercise. If your pets are not getting sufficient excercise, will exibit behaviors similiar to obsessive compulsive disorder, barking being one of them. Some obediednce training, such as come, sit , down, and heal, and even fetch will do away with barking, sometimes chewing, scratching at the doors, jumping up on the furniture, etc.
  • Jumping up on people, greeting them by jumping up and licking--This is a very simple habit to break. It does not matter how old the dog, or how long he has been doing this. As soon as you see the animal about to jump up, raise up a knee, bumping him in the chest area, knocking him off you, and turn away, ignoring him. When he greets you by just approaching you with no jumping, but as he should, tell him over and over how good he is. Good dog, oh good boy, goes a very long way in getting the behaviors that you want. I would say that one good boy positively goes as far, or is as effective as five or six bad dog negative responses do from you.

In General, and Most of the Time

For the most part I will say that most dog problems, if they are not just puppy being a puppy, can be fixed by these simple steps. Make sure the dog is getting plenty of excercise. Then, make sure that the dog id getting enough mental excercise. Stimulate his brain with obediance training first. After the dog has mastered the basic come, sit, down, heal, and fetch commands, if he is still reverting back to doing his extra carricular behaviors, continue to teach him things like taking one of his toys, perhaps a tennis ball for it will be easier for him to sniff for, into another room keeping the dog locked off say in the kitchen or outside, and hide it, not too hard at first. Then tell him to seek. He will enjoy looking for it for a while, just dont make it too hard at first. Another activity can be retrieving things for you. For example teach him what the newspaper is, and eventually he can go get the paper for you. teach him to haul things, or to pull the kids in the wagon. Use your imagination and keep his mind busy. He will feel more loved, less stressed, and will feel more like a family member and less like a pain in your arse...

Research what your particular breed of dog was bred to do or what he was bred for. Invent tricks or helps around the house to match the things he does naturally. A retriever will fetch things all day long. A border collie will round up the kids anytime, and a lab will play for hours and hours in the water. The terrior breeds are particularly smart, and can be taught to do just about anything a three year old child can do.

It makes me so unhappy, and that is putting it mildly, when I hear people that are planning on having their pet put to sleep, or are getting rid of them, only because they cannot stand their bad habits. There is no reason to destroy a perfectly good, healthy wonderful animal just because we are not smart enought to teach them not to misbehave. There is always a way to change their behaviors.

So, read up on your breed of dog, spend lots of time with them, and teach them to be good dogs, and you will have the most loyal \friend you ever knew for the next twenty years. Remember, you can learn from them too.....


Submit a Comment
  • wccutah profile image


    7 years ago

    You have posted a lot of great advice to help people with common dog behavior problems. I'd like to add that not only is mental and physical exercise important, but so is making sure your dog is getting enough sleep. A lot of the time, the reason why dogs have behavior problems is because they're over stimulated and just need a break (sleep)! Especially puppies. Most puppies in the world are extremely over stimulated and don't get enough sleep to keep them happy and from becoming frustrated. So, along with proper exercise, both mental (through dog behavior training and obedience training) and physical, focus on making sure your dog is getting plenty of breaks during the day too!

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    You list some good techniques I had never heard of before. I am anxious to go out and try them on my two misbehaving dogs. One, the newest, a Border Collie, is the one that digs and eats my rose bushes, blueberry bushes and any other plant he can reach. He loves to dig holes so I will try the water trick.

    He can only herd the big black lab/shephard mix because my Australian Shephard is the oldest and leader of the pack and doesn't put up with the others bad behavior.

    She gets mad at them when they try and jump up on me or bark too much! The collie is so funny, I guess his way of trying to herd the lab is this: he puts his front paws on his back, sometimes her teeth into his neck hair, and runs around with him like that, actually he is more following than herding I guess. I've never seen that, but the lab puts up with it for a while, then when it gets too much tries to shake her loose. I don't think it is hurting him but is getting on his nerves mostly and then he barks and barks.

    We have a huge, fenced backyard they can play in and I commit at least 1/2 hour every day to throwing the ball for them. I wish I had more room where they could run free, the dog park works when the weather isn't rainy and taking them for a walk in the neighborhood is nice when I have help but I can't manage all three by myself.

    I love your fishing line idea too as the puppy collie won't come when called, she is almost one year old so I'm going to get to work on the digging and coming when called today!

    Thanks for some great ideas!


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