Dog Behavior Training: 12 Habits to Change
Effective positive dog behavior training involves you, the pet parent, and your pet. The goal is to reward good behavior and redirect or ignore unwanted behavior. By setting clear boundaries and communication, you avoid confusing your dog and set them up for success. When you focus on positive and reward-based training methods, you foster mutual respect and trust between you and your pet. We’ll walk you through reinforcing boundaries with rewards and how to define good behaviors, like relaxing at your feet, coming when called, or greeting guests politely.
What is Positive Dog Training?
The basic theory behind positive dog training is that dogs repeat good behavior when it’s followed by a reward. Trainers often use small treats, play with a toy, and/or lots of verbal praise to teach dogs they are showing preferred behavior. Unlike other methods, positive dog training does not require physical punishments for unwanted behavior. Instead, by refusing to reward or acknowledge unwanted actions, your pet is less likely to repeat them.
Aside from treats to celebrate good behavior, you may need additional training and behavior aids. Petco has a variety of training supplies to help with potty training, leash pulling, jumping when greeting guests, and other behaviors you’d like to change. Keep reading to discover our top dog training tips and techniques that you can start practicing at home!
Help with 12 Common Dog Behavior Problems
Common behavior concerns that humans find rude like jumping and licking are normal to dogs. This is important to remember when training your pet. Instead of making them feel bad for showing “dog behavior problems,” teach them polite behaviors that you reinforce with rewards. Here are the top 12 concerns and how to handle them:
1. Barking at visitors
To keep your dog from barking when welcoming visitors, redirect them to a “sit-stay” or a "down-stay" position before answering the door. Provide the visitor with plenty of treats to give to your dog once they are quiet and sitting. This associates welcoming a visitor with polite behavior as well as yummy treats!
2. Jumping on guests
Cue your dog to sit before greeting someone. Have treats on hand and reward them when your pet remains seated. Guests should ignore your dog until they have all four paws on the ground or are sitting. If your dog jumps up, guests should turn their backs and leave.
3. Excessive Licking
If your dog starts licking more than usual, get up and walk away or redirect to something else. Giving them a toy or treat when they stop licking you works wonders!
4. Sitting on furniture
There’s nothing wrong with snuggling with your pet on the sofa but it’s vital that all family members reinforce the same boundaries. Decide early on what the limits are and stick with them for consistent training.
5. Pushing through doors
A dog bolting through the door is a dangerous habit to keep. Always put your dog’s leash on before you go to the door. Train your pup to sit and stay while you open the door and invite them to go through when you both are ready to do so. It is also good practice to establish a “wait” as soon as they have walked through the door, where your dog pauses to look for next actions provided by you.
Provide plenty of safe and chew-approved chew toys for your puppy or dog. While chewing is normal you can redirect the behavior (and save your favorite shoes) by putting your items away and having approved chew toys readily available. Be sure to reward your pet for finding a positive solution! Another tip is to schedule thirty minutes of exercise per day. This gives your pet a good physical outlet and by adding a puzzle toy session each day, they will also get the mental stimulation they need.
7. Me! me! me!
If your dog is displaying “attention seeking” behaviors, ignore them. Turn your back and don’t acknowledge your pet until they offer a different behavior.
8. Digging up the yard
Dogs love getting their paws in the dirt to bury food or create a cool place to lie in the summer. If this is a problem, set aside a small “digging allowed” area and encourage them to dig there. For pet parents with limited yard space, supervise your dog's outings and distract them with toys and activities to discourage digging. Taking your dog for a thirty-minute walk also helps burn off the energy they use when digging.
Aggression is not common in most dogs and aggressive behaviors often have an underlying cause. If your dog lunges, snaps or bites another dog or person, seek help from a veterinary behaviorist. Only veterinarian-board certified trainers should address aggression issues.
A well-bred, properly socialized and trained dog is less likely to be fearful in most situations. Even so, any dog can become afraid when in new or strange circumstances. Consult a veterinary behaviorist for scared dogs who refuse treats or default to aggressive behaviors.
11. Meeting other dogs
Dogs should never meet on a leash since they hinder your dog’s body language and cause confusion between both dogs. Instead, if you have a puppy, find a supervised puppy playtime session to attend. Or, take your dog to a dog park where they can be off leash and meet other polite dogs. If you run into someone on the sidewalk, you should both ask your dogs to sit before introducing yourself to the stranger. Reward your dog for sitting during the introduction.
12. Stealing off countertops
Remove anything and everything from the countertop and your dog will figure out there is nothing worth “counter surfing.” This method always works! Or, crate your dog when unable to supervise them.
Now that you know some effective dog training techniques, make sure you have your pet’s favorite reward for positive reinforcement. Shop our wide selection of dog treats that come in a variety of flavors including apple, peanut butter, chicken, bacon and more. If you find that you need some help getting your dog housetrained, stop by your local Petco for dog training services!