Avoid Unwanted Behaviors by Stopping Bad Habits

In many ways our pets are a reflection of ourselves.

Our bad habits can become their bad habits. And our reaction to a behavior can reinforce an unwanted behavior.

Since unwanted behaviors can sometimes be a challenge to fix, think about some ways to prevent them before your dog (and you) develops bad habits. If you’re already guilty of a bad habit, now’s a great time to make some adjustments.

Begging for Scraps

Many pet owners are annoyed by their dogs begging for food come dinner time. Why does it happen? Well, for one, it smells delicious. Also, there’s a good chance the behavior began when he was rewarded for it somehow. Maybe he was fed by someone at the dinner table, or he was otherwise lavished with attention while someone was eating. The best way to keep your dog from sniffing around the table when you’re eating is by not rewarding the behavior with food or attention. Before you sit down, direct your dog to his bed to entertain himself with a favorite chew. You can also keep him out of the area by closing it off with a doggie gate. When you’re done eating, if he was well-behaved, reward him with praise and maybe even some treats.

Getting on the Furniture

There are mixed views on allowing pets to get on the sofa and/or bed. Whatever you decide, the important thing is to be consistent. Don’t allow your dog on the bed sometimes and then get upset when he gets on the couch. It’s confusing. Make a decision early on and stick with it, because this is a hard habit to break.

Nudging for Treats

When dogs learn patterns of behavior, they start to anticipate things. So if you consistently give treats in a certain situation, he’ll learn to expect them. Maybe you give him treats on your morning walk when he’s walking calmly at your side. He may start to anticipate the treat and nudge your hand for the treat. Since the goal is to reward a behavior, don’t give a treat when he’s nudging for the treat. Wait until he’s calmly walking, not nudging, then give him a treat. Otherwise, he’ll learn nudging is an acceptable way to earn treats.

Shoving You Out of the Way

In their excitement, some dogs can essentially turn into bulldozers, knocking over everything in their way. Clearly this can present a challenge—and danger—to people in the house. Depending on the reason for the excitement, you’ll want to teach your dog that pushing and shoving his way to his goal will not get him there any faster. Let’s say he knows he goes out to run in the backyard every morning…so he learns to run and shove you out of the way to get to the back door. Instead of letting him charge forth, grab some treats and have him sit for them. When he’s calm, release him from his sit and let him out to play.

Overly Exciting Your Dog

Dogs can be highly enthusiastic. But some can get so excited that it gets counterproductive because they start knocking things over and going into a tizzy. For these dogs, activities like arriving home from work should be a very calm affair. Instead of enthusiastically greeting your dog with a high-pitched voice and loads of excitement, walk in casually and settle in before going over to calmly greet your dog. Have him sit for a treat and praise him for being well-behaved.


Dogs who jump on people can become a nuisance—and safety risk if they’re large. What you don’t want to do is feed their attention-seeking behavior by laughing or playing with your dog if he starts to jump. As soon as he starts to jump, turn your back to him and cross your arms until he stops. When he’s calm, you can praise him and give him attention again.

Some bad habits are just annoying, others can turn into real behavioral issues. Keep your dog at his very best by nipping those bad habits in the bud.

Meet the Author: Jessica Peralta

Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.

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