Naughty dog training tips

If your dog is misbehaving, look at what is going on. Is the dog upset and fearful, or bored and giddy? Are they overtired or hungry? Has it happened before?

Can you see any patterns in the behaviour? Are there any triggers? 

Remember never use physical punishment on a dog- it can make things much worse, especially for an excited or fearful/ aggressive dog. Even if they comply, will they trust or like you? There’s other ways…

dogs respond well to things that are fun and tasty, and are less likely to do the things that are boring. Try and work out what their motivation is and see if you can find a way to help them get their wishes politely and safely. 

For a detailed explanation of how to discourage jumping up, check out our methods page. It’s used as a step- by- step example of how ethical trainers encourage nice manners and kindly modify behaviour without problems surfacing elsewhere later.


Every dog owner, at some point thinks “what have I done?” (usually after discovering some destruction)

The most frustrating problem behaviours in puppies are usually due to the mess and unexpected extra work caused from their teething and toileting. Establishing routines can help with toileting. Click here to see how to teach your dog to go outside. 

Dogs live in the here and now. There is no point in telling them off for a past misdemeanor, you’ll just confuse and appear mean, they’ll wonder why you’re making a fuss.

Most likely chewing means they have new teeth coming- it’s best to offer a bone, frozen carrot, filled and frozen Kong or a toy. Nothing beats asking your dog to leave the furniture and offering a tastier or more fun chew or toy, but there are inevitably times when you haven’t got your eyes on the pup. If you need to take a shower or so on, it’s wisest to use a crate (if they are happy there and think it’s a cozy den). Whilst we’re not fans of putting dogs off behaviours by making things uncomfortable, sometimes crating is not feasible. Maybe try safeguarding tasty furniture with cold remedies like Vic vapour rub or Olbas oil (As these remedies are oil based, be careful if you put them on fabric).

An over-tired puppy can cause mayhem. 

An over-tired pup is more giddy, bitey and over-excitable. Try working out how long ago they slept, is it time for a nap? If they have just woken up and are being over-excited, then maybe would they benefit from a walk or some tiring game like chasing after balls in the garden. 

Stu says that puppies are cute as a survival tactic!

It is hard to see the funny side when your favourite things get ruined, but it will help, if you can. When Smudgey was little she was just like any other beardie pup- wilful, independent, giddy and bitey. Friends and family would be exasperated with the relentless mess- it didn’t get to me as much, but I still worked on her bite and impulse control and her sensitivity training. What really helped was that I was completely smitten with her- I thought everything she did was utterly charming and I’d just end up laughing. I seemed to have a much easier time coping because of it. 

When your patience is severely tested I’m sure most of us would rather laugh rather than cry, despite our eyes sometimes having other ideas. Try to see the funny side, if you can. The only book in our house to get it’s cover chewed has been Stanley Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs.” To find out who made us late for work for 3 weeks and why; who ran faster than a 20 year old man on a bike down a hill; who kept escaped the puppy pen to sit on Stu’s lap; who doesn’t eat her breakfast and who hides all the toys in the garden and tries to get double treats … please see Our dogs.

Adolescent pups

are sometimes very startled by peculiar things. A puppy of ours took great exception to a large concrete lion in Northampton town centre- I suppose she was suddenly confronted by a giant cat! Her hackles came up, she woofed angrily and stared. This is frequently due to a growth spurt and subsequent temporary dip in calcium levels. Distract them, to get them out of the moment and then go to the butchers and get a bone. This will occupy, clean their teeth, sooth and replenish the calcium.

The time most dogs are re-homed is when they are in puberty, when they turn from cute and funny little fluff balls into lanky, clumsy teenagers who test boundaries and acquire selective deafness in the park. If you haven’t already, it’s time for puppy school. You’ll learn things like how to listen while excited, attract their attention and focus, how to ensure they come back, how to leave things alone how to how to deal with problems.

For dogs of all ages

To quickly distract a dog: “A-AH!” (short, loud, emphatic) is best used to alert them away from a danger. A high sing-song noise is good to quickly get their attention. Remove them from a dangerous situation immediately, consider the effectiveness of your environmental controls. 

A hungry dog is always much more feisty. Many dogs get fractious when it’s dinner time or if there’s nothing to do, or  if their food is of poor quality. It is surprising just how much bad quality food effects behaviour.

If you’re concerned, check out an independent dog food analysis website, put whatever you’re feeding in the search bar, see what they say. Check out the highest ranking foods. Remember good quality does not necessarily mean expensive or well advertised.

Fears and frights:  Cortisol hormone. When a dog has had a fright they are subjected to a raised level of the stress hormone cortisol, which remains in the system for a longer time than most people realise-  you may need to be extra reassuring for a couple of weeks. (More bones).

Assess their energy– is it time for exercise, or a nap? 

If you dog is humping, studies found that neutering makes it worse. Tips to help and pros and cons to neutering here

Teaching tricks and commands amuses in a positive way. Occupying their brains is the quickest way to tire a dog.

If your dog has nicked your slippers 

they probably are attention seeking, so don’t chase after them- that’s a really fun game. Try playing with one of their toys excitedly on your own, they’d much prefer to play with you and should drop the contraband and rush over.. Encourage them if they approach you with a toy (rather than steal something) and play with them when you can. Don’t forget to work on “leave it”.

Bored and attention seeking?  Playing and interacting with family and friends is more fun than being told off, but being told off gets them attention if they’re bored. Puzzle games can help– if you’re handy a  quick google search will  give you plenty of ideas to DIY. The brainiest of dogs are always the most challenging to entertain and occupy. Dogs are opportunists, and if they can work out a way to get attention and/ or extra treats, then they will give it a try.

Would it be a genius or very stupid idea to make an iPad game for dogs? Their paws can make them work- I accidentally left my old one on the sofa one day and Smudgey sent a few dozen friend requests to people I didn’t know. 

Good manners begins with good communication. Work on recall and “leave it”. Offer something else to do.

More Serious Stuff

Growling: they way dogs let everyone know something is wrong. 

Don’t stop your dog from growling- how else are they going to say there’s a problem? Biting? A dog who bites without warning has (most likely) been told off for growling. They have been taught that this is the only way they can convey distress,.

Dogs would normally take some time before they loose their temper and bite. They growl a warning when upset or frightened. Always listen, check out what’s happening to trigger it off and remove them away from the stress. Usually they will have given more subtle signals several times already at this point. Most dogs will show distress and displeasure by bearing their lips, their teeth closed in a snarl. If they are still uncomfortable then they would growl a warning, this can happens several times. Snapping at the air means that the dog is very upset and at the end of their tether. Act immediately- change the atmosphere, remove them away from the trigger, offer something else to do … this is your last warning.

Reacting in the park- 

are they over-excited and wound up from being on a lead or are they afraid and self defensive? Make sure they don’t feel constrained and if they are a small dog, don’t pick them up. Call a professional who can explain how to help the dog manage their energy levels and avoid feeling like they have to stand up for themselves- so that they greet other dogs nicely and make friends much easier (rather than exploding on contact).

If your dog gets in a fight

pull them away by their back legs… if you pull on their collar you may get bitten before they have chance to focus- they don’t have the time to assess who you are or what you’re doing and they could think you’re are another aggressor. Walk them away. They’ll probably shake once they start to feel safer..

Questions to consider: were there any warnings? Could you tell what set it off? Do you think you could predict if it happens again? Is it with a certain type of dog (breed/ gender/ size/ colour etc) or in the same type of place (narrow pathway?) Did interaction seem ok at first, or were you worried it may not go so well? Why? …. The more answers you have the better the picture you will have and the more likely you are to reduce the stress and stop it happening again. 

Please call a professional who would help them work on their flight instincts and teach you to recognise the tiny signals of discomfort in the earliest of stages so you are confident and know what to do..

A professional will also help if you are finding that you are making so many compromises that life with your dog is no longer fun.

If you need any further help, please contact us.

Affinity Dog Training Northampton. Specialists in challenging canine behaviour with kind, down to earth methods that work. For fun and informative dog training in a supportive atmosphere ring 0751 976 2411

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