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Breaking bad habits that a dog has learned is often much more challenging than the initial training. This is because not only does the dog have to learn what you want, but they have to unlearn what they have previously done. Usually dogs learn bad habits because owners are too lazy or too inattentive to the behavior of the dog to notice that they are no longer following commands. Bad behavior is effective for the dog or they wouldn't continue to use it.
A good example of a bad habit that is problematic for most owners is a dog that doesn't come back when it is called. What typically happens is that the owner simply doesn't allow the dog off leash so they don't have to deal with the problem. While this is a short-term solution it rarely works indefinitely, especially if the dog gets out of the yard or away from the owner by accident. Since it has had no practice or training in coming back when off-leash, it simply takes the opportunity to run wild and free, reinforcing all the bad behavior that caused the owner to use the leash in the first place.
Another typical example of a bad habit is aggression towards other dogs or pets. Although there are a few breeds that are not social dogs at all and do not respond well to other canines, these breeds are relatively rare. Most owners that don't provide early socialization for their puppies find out that these dogs become either dog aggressive or very timid and shy around other dogs. Rather than starting a set socialization program many owners simply choose to leave the dogs at home, which leads to an increase in the problem rather than addressing and correcting the problem.
Most dogs misbehave not because they are willful or mean spirited dogs, but rather because they honestly think that they are the dominant member of the family and are setting the rules. Dogs are a pack animal and they naturally have a hierarchy within the pack. In natural families the most dominant male is the alpha male then there is a dominant female, followed by other adults within the pack, then juveniles and finally puppies.
The alpha dog eats first, decides what the pack is doing and is responsible for protecting the pack with the help of the other adult pack members. In human dog interactions dominance becomes a problem when the dog, rather than the person, is in the alpha role. It is important to note that this dominance issue is typical in males and females of all breeds of dogs, although some breeds are far less likely to engage in these behaviors than others. Many toy and small breeds have just as big of an issue with trying to assume the alpha role in the human family as some of the large protection or working type breeds.
Dominance is often misunderstood. It does not include being mean to the puppy or dog, using harsh punishments or using extreme types of training methods. In reality establishing dominance means responding the right behavior and ignoring and not responding to the inappropriate behavior. NILF or nothing in life is free training focuses on establishing dominance by requiring the dog to do what the owner wants so the dog can get what he or she wants.
Dogs or puppies that are allowed to get away with bad behavior or are even rewarded for bad behavior will soon become confused as to who is actually in control. Often these dominance issues aren't even aggressive, rather they are often mildly annoying or possible even amusing at first, but then become problematic as they increase in severity. A great example of this is a dog that whines for attention. At first you may think it is sort of cute that the puppy or dog needs you to attend to them at all times, so you reach out and scratch them behind the ears when they are whining. Before long you can't sit on the couch to watch TV or read a book without the dog whining beside you, nudging your hand or trying to crawl up on your lap. At this point the behavior is no longer funny, cute or amusing, it is now downright irritating. However, if you look back, you have trained the dog to do just what he or she is doing by allowing the dog to train you to provide attention when he or she wants it. The dog is now the leader; you are just supposed to follow.
To correct this issue you have to change how you respond to the dog. This means you will have to establish that you are in control and will decide when to pet the dog, and this will only be when the dog is sitting quietly on the ground. The owner will ignore all attempts by the dog to get you to pet it, which may even mean getting up and leaving the room until the dog settles down. Once he or she does, return to the room, give the sit command, and then give lots of praise and attention. Keep repeating this process until the dog understands that you are in charge and you will only give them what they want when they are doing what you want.
Punishing bad behaviors through spanking, hitting or yelling at a dog or puppy is cruel and unnecessary. Harsh punishment may stop one problem behavior but it won't teach them the right behavior, which will just cause further problems. Since re-teaching is harder than teaching the first time, an obedience course or working with a dog trainer in a private setting may be an option that some dog owners may wish to consider. Remember that if you are working with a trainer or animal behavioralist to correct problem behavior you will still need to practice and work with the dog on a regular basis to effectively change the negative to a positive.
Catching bad behaviors as early as possible is the very best option. Never be too tired or too frustrated with your dog or puppy to work with them effectively. It is better to skip a training session that to allow the puppy or dog to slide through using bad behaviors.
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