Your pup has plenty of tricks of their sleeve to get your attention, and counter-surfing and attention-seeking barking are two big ones that can be tricky to solve. If your pup is displaying behaviors that aren’t so tremendously wonderful, and you’re at your wit’s end to find a solution–follow these creative and easy tips to help keep Fido not only well-behaved, but also entertained and engaged.
The first step to training, of course, is understanding motive. Your pup isn’t likely to be naughty just to spite you. Just like a kid, he or she is trying to get your attention in the best way they might know how. Your number one tool is identification of motive. Whether it’s a tasty sandwich left too close the edge of the kitchen counter (and thus a tasty snack), a perceived lack of attention from their people, or a tempting, freshly planted garden bed just ripe for the digging, these tricks can help you correct your pup, re-focus their energy, keep them engaged and learning, and most importantly, receiving positive attention from you!
Do your best to avoid yelling a blanket “no!” Why? It’s not as communicative as something more specific like “leave it” or “gentle.” Tailor your response to the specific situation. Counter Surfers may benefit from an “off” command, like “leave it,” while barkers could benefit from a re-directive command, helping them focus their energy into more positive behaviors like “sit” or “lay down.”
Before The Behavior Begins
Removing any temptation for your pup to behave poorly can be helpful. Though we like to think that our pups know better, dogs do what is rewarding, sometimes the smell of a juicy sandwich or leg of chicken can be too tempting. This is why we use positive reinforcement and high-value rewards to help teach them that staying off is more rewarding than not. Considering that plenty of human food and kitchen tools are dangerous for curious pups, it’s a good plan to always keep food and sharp items out of reach, in case your pup decides to stand up and check out the countertop. It is tricky to anticipate when counter-surfing will occur, so this can be a difficult behavior to crack. Standing super still and air scenting are two good clues that your pup may be considering counter-surfing.
When counter-surfing happens it’s super important to remember to use only positive reinforcement training (or rewarding your pup for a good behavior, rather than punishing for a bad one.) Work with whatever your “off” or “leave it” command is, and reward your pup when he or she does so successfully. This should help teach them that staying off of the counter is more rewarding than jumping up.
If you’ve got an attention-seeking barker, yelling “no” is unlikely to signal to the dog that what they are doing is disruptive–you may as well be barking with them, and that kind of reaction could be seen as positive to the dog–they’ve gotten your attention, haven’t they? A clever way to avoid confusing your pup into thinking that barking has successfully gotten them the attention that they wanted, try re-directing their energy into something positive and constructive of good habits. Using a command like “sit” or “lay down,” is a great place to start. This re-direction into a positive, skill-building exercise, provides a rewarding place to put your pup’s energy. You can reward for this good behavior, instead of the barking.
If behaviors continue to worsen, consider that your dog may have something bothering them. Just like us, dogs use certain behaviors to communicate with us how they are feeling. This can range from anything to hunger, boredom, frustration, fear, anxiety, and/or excitement, so take care to observe how they react to certain situations, and see if behavior can’t be mitigated by adjusting lifestyle (different walk times, different meal times, puzzle-solving toys, games that help engage hunting instincts, removal of certain behavior triggers.)
If you reach your wits end, consulting a dog behaviorist and/or can be beneficial. Remember to interview them thoroughly, ensure that they use positive reinforcement training only. Alos be sure that they work with you and your dog together, instead of just taking your dog for training sessions–remember, behavioral issues come from both sides of the dog-and-parent relationship–it’s a two-way street, y’all!