TreeTops Animal Rescue
PO Box 584
Landenberg, PA 19350
(484) 727-7456

Cats: 25   |  Dogs: 8

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  How To Prevent Some Problem Behaviors
by Debbie DeSantis, CPDT, Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant,
Going To The Dogs Obedience Training, (610) 558-4951,


Training helps prevent many problem behaviors in dogs.  For example, a dog who is taught to reliably sit when someone approaches won’t be able to jump on the person.  Training is a positive way to show dogs that we are the pack leader.  Playing with toys and fetching is a great way to interact with our dogs and to give them some exercise.  But a dog must learn to give the toy back on command upon return and not turn it into a game of chase.  We must teach our canine companions to relinquish their toys—and other objects—upon command.  This also helps prevent resource guarding in dogs. 


Start by holding a safe toy that the dog likes and, while holding onto the toy, say “take it.”  When the pup takes it, be ready with another toy or a treat and say “give.”  As soon as the dog releases the first toy for the treat or second toy, praise and say “good give.”  After the pup learns this exercise well, you can incorporate it into your games.  It’s usually best to start these practices with a lower-value toy such as a rubber toy, not a cloth one.  Generally, dogs want to hold onto cloth toys and tug without releasing.  Eventually, if you are consistent, a dog will learn to release other objects on command as well. 


Many people want to play tug games with their dogs.  I generally advise against this.  If the dog does not readily release a toy, this game should never be played because the dog could see itself above you in the pack.  This could lead to other problem behaviors challenging your authority.  Tug games should be considered only if a dog reliably performs other training commands and will release the toy immediately on command.


Another way to help prevent resource guarding is to have the pup associate your approach to its food as a positive event.  Teaching your pup to sit before it eats   helps to establish you as a pack leader.  First, teach the pup to sit reliably until released.  Then, add a few pieces of food to its empty dish as you approach.  Release by telling the pup “eat.”  By doing this, the pup will associate good things happening when you approach its food, instead of believing that you are taking its food.  When a dog learns this from a young age, it won’t start to guard the valuable resource of food.


Teaching your puppy to be handled is also essential to prevent some unwanted behaviors, as some dogs can become aggressive if they are not taught to be handled.  At the least, a dog who is not trained to be handled will be unmanageable when groomed.  This advice is for your puppies and adult dogs without aggression already.  Your veterinarian and groomer will also thank you for having a well-behaved dog.


When your pup is young, teach it to be calmly massaged, have its paws and nails handled, and have its ears touched and massaged.  Be firm but gentle.  You can have the pup on your lap held securely, sit next to the pup who is lying on the floor, or have the pup in front of you securely on a table.  To set your pup up to succeed, perform this exercise only when it is tired. 


Gently brush the pup with a soft brush.  Praise and reward (even with a small occasional treat) all calm behavior.  If the pup struggles, firmly say “eh-eh” and praise when it is calm.  Say “good groom.”  Additionally, grooming will help prevent excessive shedding all over your furniture.


Teaching your pup to be handled will help you in your everyday life.  You’ll need to groom the pup so that its skin doesn’t develop problems.  Cleaning the dog’s ears is also important so that ear infections don’t occur.  Having a dog accustomed to having its mouth handled will aid in brushing its teeth and in removing unwanted items it may pick up.  You’ll also need to check your dog for fleas and ticks and lumps and bumps, especially as it gets older. 


We also want our dogs to have positive associations with people.  After the pup has been taught not to jump and to instead sit as someone approaches, you can have someone approach with a small treat.  Have them (or you can) give the treat at the dog’s level.  If the treat’s held above the pup’s head, it will cause it to jump.  Verbally praise “good sit.”  You can also add the command “say hi” when the person approaches.  Petting can also be part of the pup’s reinforcement.  However, it’s probably better to pet on the side of the face, not above the head; also, let the pup first sniff the greeter’s hand.  After to pup understands that people coming towards it is a positive event, the treats can gradually be phased out.


As is true at any time, if you have any aggression issues, please obtain professional help from a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist.  The time you put into training will help prevent aggression or other unwanted issues from developing.  And your life w


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