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Sometimes dogs can suddenly exhibit problem behaviors, even dogs that are otherwise always on their best behavior. Since dogs have no sense of morality, they don't do one thing because it's "wrong" and another thing because it's "right." They just do whatever works for them. For example, if you see your dog chewing on a chair leg and give him a cookie to distract him from the furniture, you have taught him that the next time he wants a cookie, all he has to do is find a good piece of furniture to gnaw on.
A common cause of problem behaviors is simply boredom. When a dog has nothing else to do, he just might try chewing or digging. As the owner, you can be held somewhat responsible for this, as you are the one who should be providing your dog with everything he needs, including an appropriate amount of daily exercise and entertainment. In addition to making sure your dog has enough activity in his days, you can begin to make a point of noticing when and understanding why a dog is prone to a particular problem behavior, and then you can take steps to help him overcome this tendency.
The following are some common problems:
All dogs need to chew. For puppies, it is one way of exploring the world around them and can also use up some of their indefatigable energy; for older dogs, chewing may result from anxiety or boredom. Another common reason that dogs are chewers is simply that they enjoy it. Because it is impossible for a puppy to determine what is acceptable to chew on and what is not, he must be supervised whenever possible. When you see him starting to chew on something, say "No!" and give him something else to gnaw on. When he has to be left alone for a period of time, confine him to his crate along with appropriate chew toys.
For dogs, the urge to digging is innate—they just can't help themselves. So how can you keep your yard (or living room carpet!) from ending up with a bunch of holes in it? One approach is to provide your dog with a place where it's okay for him to dig, like a small sandbox in the backyard. Just keep in mind that digging is a natural behavior for dogs. With some supervision, you may be able to protect certain sacred areas from digging paws, but for a dog to dig is normal behavior and really shouldn't be punished.
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, including excitement, protection, and aggression. However, dogs also bark to get attention. If your pup is using his bark to get attention, ignore him until he quiets down, and then calmly praise him. If you yell at a barking dog, he may think you are joining in and want to help him make a lot of noise, which will only encourage this unwanted behavior. Yelling at him is also giving him what he wants: attention.
One method sometimes used to conquer an excessive barking habit is to use a shaker can. A shaker can is just an empty soda can filled with a few coins or small pebbles. The next time your dog starts barking, give him a command, such as No Bark, and shake the can. The noise should startle him and distract him from his barking. Once he has stopped barking, praise him and reward him with a treat.
When we are reunited with old friends or make new acquaintances, it is customary to shake hands, hug, or give a kiss on the cheek. For most dogs, jumping up is simply a type of greeting. If you do not want your adult dog to greet people in this way, discourage the behavior when he is a puppy.
When you see your puppy coming to greet you, get down on your knees and make a fuss over him. As you're doing this, put your thumb in his collar under his chin, applying gentle pressure so he can't jump up. Praise him only when all four of his paws are on the ground. When you have visitors, make sure your puppy is on a leash before you open the door. This will enable you to control his behavior without having to have your hand on his collar.
When your dog begins to exhibit a problem behavior, try to work on correcting it right away. The longer you let it go on, the harder it will be to correct it. Some problem behaviors get to the point where they are almost impossible for the average owner to handle. If you think your dog may need the kind of help that you can't give him, don't hesitate to seek the help of a professional trainer.