If you own a dog, it’s safe to say you love the little ball of fluff. It’s easy to want to indulge your pup’s every single whim and spoil them rotten — but sometimes, doing so could actually encourage bad behavior in your dog.
Andy Ramshaw, the dog trainer and owner of
Venture Dog Training, tells Mic, “I don't believe we should correct our dog’s behavior but should be looking for the cause of the behaviors we don't like. What people consider bad behavior is usually normal canine behavior that is inconvenient for humans.”
Ramshaw continues, “So, to reduce instances of such behavior we need to ensure our dog's mental and physical needs are met on a daily basis. This includes adequate food, water and shelter, along with opportunities to sniff, lick, chew, and possibly bark and dig holes. These needs can be met naturally in the outdoors on a walk or products can be bought to replicate them at home.”
What problems may you be causing and how can you course correct? I reached out to dog trainers and experts to learn their advice for better-behaving pets — and these tips are things we could all learn from.
01 Problem: You let your dog jump up on furnitureSolution: Block them from jumping up with this couch defender
You almost have to respect how persistent dogs are when trying to get on your furniture without you noticing, but
Dr. Amanda Takiguchi, a veterinarian, says the dog should ask and receive permission first. That’s where the Couch Defender comes in handy. The coils pop up to leave no room for your pet to jump onto the sofa when you’re not home. When not using, just collapse and clip it closed for compact storage under your furniture. 02 Problem: Your dog pulls on your leashSolution: Walk your dog with this harness that goes across their chest
Dr. Takiguchi says letting the dog pull you when on a leash is another bad behavior you want to curb, but you also want to make sure you’re not being too rough. This
harness is unlike others because it goes around your pup’s chest instead of their neck. In addition, the extra front loop is what assures that gradual pressure is being applied when you give a little tug, while discouraging your dog from pulling. They’ll be comfy, and you’ll feel safe. 03 Problem: Your dog barks at children & other pups because of stress Solution: Give them this snuggle toy with a soothing real-feel heartbeat
Dr. Takiguchi wants everyone to know that allowing your pup to bark and growl at others is not cute — no matter how high-pitched their little squeal is. If your dog is barking because of high stress or possible anxiety, you can help them stay calm with this
snuggle toy. Inside this cuddle-worthy toy, there’s both a heat pack and a gadget mimicking the feel of a real heartbeat to make them feel like they're actually relaxing with a friend. 04 Problem: You let your dog “protect” you when others are aroundSolution: Set up an extendable pet gate with a small door
Dr. Takiguchi explains that “[letting] the dog ‘protect’ the owner thinking that’s what it’s doing when instead the dog is claiming you for himself/herself” is a big mistake. “Commonly seen when someone is holding a small dog and the dog starts to attack anyone that comes close. This is not cute, not safe. Someone is going to get hurt,” she says.
Whether you have another small dog in the house or guests coming over for dinner, there are always certain times when a
pet gate comes in handy. This one has rust-resistant panels that extend from 29 to 36.5 inches wide. And if you still want to make sure your smaller dog or cat that one dog likes to growl at can get to its food, don’t worry, there’s a small door in the center that can be left open. 05 Problem: You repeat commands your dog is ignoringSolution: Read up on the 5-week training program from this book
Dr. Takiguchi says that a huge mistake is expecting immediate response from a command or giving up after repeating a command that your dog is ignoring. It actually teaches the dog that they don’t have to respect you. For more helpful pointers, grab this
dog training book with tips from Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, who trained Bo Obama. This five-week program focuses on positive reinforcement to get rid of any bad habits your pet has picked up instead of forcing your dog to behave. 06 Problem: Your dog tends to get a little too curiousSolution: Use an extra-long leash to give them freedom while maintaining control
In order to give your dog the opportunity to sniff and explore while still having control, Andy Ramshaw, dog trainer and owner of
Venture Dog Training, recommends this extra-long leash. He explains, “I recommend one 30-foot long that you can put onto your dog in a safe environment like the woods or a beach. They give your dog the opportunity to sniff and explore while the owner still has control. Useful if the dog has poor recall.” The durable nylon with reinforced stitching is sure to outlast any cotton alternatives and is available in 15, 20, 30, 50, and 100 feet. 07 Problem: You don’t give your dog anything to chewSolution: Give them this hard rubber toy you can stuff with treats
Chewing is a natural instinct in dogs, and to help them do this habit in a productive way, Ramshaw has a handy standby:
Kongs. “These are hard rubber chews that can be filled with the dog's daily food portion,” he says. “Feeding this way gives the dog an opportunity to chew (fulfilling a natural calming function) whilst also rewarding the dog for lying down, chewing, not barking and being calm. They can also be given in a crate to teach the dog to enjoy time alone in a crate.”
This Kong is in a unique ribbon shape, and you can stuff different treats and kibble in the four grippy compartments. The durable rubber will last a long time and can even stand up to the toughest chewers.
08 Problem: You feed your dog, and they finish the food too fastSolution: Encourage your dog to lick on this slow-feeding mat
To keep your dog feeling and eating good, place one of their meals on this
slow-feeding mat. This encourages slow eating and licking, which Ramshaw says “is repetitive and is calming for dogs.” The act of licking around the flexible surface also generates saliva and helps protect their teeth and gums. 09 Problem: You let your dog get bored, and they get destructiveSolution: Hide treats in this snuffle mat to give them a safe way to “hunt”
The long strands of fleece on this
snuffle mat are meant to hide your dog’s treats to create a fun sniffing and digging game for them. In addition to being a great source of entertainment, Ramshaw says it can actually also stimulate the senses. “This replicates the natural behavior of sniffing and scavenging for dogs and can be an excellent way to exercise their brain. Mental exercise is twice as tiring as physical exercise for dogs,” he explains. The size of the mat can be adjusted to best fit your dog. 10 Problem: Your dog chews on things Solution: Give them some bully sticks that remove tartar & plaque
bully sticks are a sneaky way to care for your dog’s teeth without making them sit through a brushing session, all while encouraging them to chew on something they should gnaw on. Ramshaw recommends “bully sticks, dried pigs ears, raw non-weight bearing bones, yak's milk chews and antlers” for healthy, consumable chew toys. These bully sticks are full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. And they’re in a shape that acts as a tartar and plaque remover for teeth. The pure beef sticks are made with no preservatives or artificial flavors so you can rest assured that your pup is getting the best. 11 Problem: Your dog has a tendency to pull on leashesSolution: Put this reflective, Y-shaped harness on them
If your dog has a tendency to pull when they walk, don’t allow them to get hurt. Instead, clip on this
harness. “A harness is preferable to a collar because if the dog has a tendency to pull, the pressure caused will be distributed across the dog's chest and back, which are strong. Rather than its neck that contains softer organs,” Ramshaw notes.
Th intentional Y-shaped design in addition to the bungee clip that absorbs shock makes it much gentler than other leash models. The soft neoprene fabric is also reflective to keep your furry friend visible and safe when on walks at night.
12 Problem: You engage with your dog when they’re being naughtySolution: Reward them for being calm with these pork liver treats
Patrik Holmboe, head vet for
Cooper Pet Care, is an avid believer in not engaging with your dog when they partake in bad behavior. “A common example would be the large dog that goes crazy and jumps on their owner (or guests) when they enter the house. The owner doesn't want this, so they loudly exclaim ‘No!’ and push the dog away. They think they are telling the dog not to do that action, but in actuality they are giving the dog what it wants: attention! And being pushed is a game, and fun!” he explains. What should you do instead? “The proper response instead in this situation would be to ignore the dog (not giving it what it wants) until it settles down and is calm — and only then heap on the praise, attention, and treats.”
When it comes to rewards, consider these
small training treats. Their tiny size makes them perfect to give throughout the day without having your pup overindulge, so you can give your pup a small token when they’re laying down calmly. Made with no artificial flavors or corn, each pack is made with real pork liver and comes with 500 pieces. 13 Problem: You create a negative feedback loopSolution: Encourage your dog to be calm with an interactive toy
Jme Thomas, executive director of
Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, explains, “So often owners are creating a negative feedback loop and cultivating reactivity by their response to their dog's behavior. Dogs that are reacting to stimuli will need counter conditioning to combat this problem — and the owner will literally need to be retrained on how to think about what comfort and support mean when it comes to such behavior.” Thomas continues, “This means you must 'capture' the good behavior sometimes as well — praising quietly and calmly when they are resting, sitting, or otherwise just being good — so you give the oxytocin for the good things and help them stop counting on it for their reactivity.”
An easy way to reward your dog for being calm, and to keep them calm and engaged, is with this
interactive toy. The bricks hide treats or kibble inside to keep your dog’s hunting instincts intact, and they’ll be rewarded for playing quietly by themselves with a hearty meal. 14 Problem: You get anxious & tighten the leashSolution: Use this no-pull harness with 4 adjustment points
Jackie Carleen, certified dog trainer and founder of
Mindful Doggo, explains that your knee-jerk reactions can affect your dog more than you think. “If you are nervous, it will cause your dog to feel nervous that they can't trust you to navigate the situation. Put simply, once they feel your reaction they go into protection mode to protect themselves from harm if they feel you aren't up to the challenge. Mindfulness approaches so you both can regulate your emotions are crucial but proper equipment for walking your dog is also pivotal for success and can help eliminate the shock that travels down the lead,” she explains.
Carleen continues, “I personally use and adore the
2 Hounds Design Freedom No Pull Dog Harness because it's not only safe for your dog's neck but has double loops — one in the front and one in the back — which gives you easy control that won't trigger your dog when they are in a reactive state.”
The four adjustment points on the nylon provide a more comfortable fit for your pup and make it possible to pull the leash in an upward motion instead of harshly tugging them back. The fabric is also lined with velvet to be extra soft on your dog’s coat.
15 Problem: Your dog is too dependent on youSolution: Stick this lick mat on the floor to keep them occupied with food
Carleen says you don’t want your dog to be too dependent on you. Instead, teach them to self-soothe. “Freeze peanut butter in a kong, a lick mat, or a similar treat dispensing toy to elongate the amount of time they enjoy their treat. Lick mats are great because they offer various textures while being licked which is cool because the mouth is one of the ways our dog learns about its environment,” she recommends.
lick mat can help your pup relax. The strong suction cups allow it to securely stick to any surface — even the wall — so they can search through its textured surface without it having sliding around. Use the included spatula to spread on their favorite treat, and freeze it to keep them occupied for longer. 16 Problem: You use a retractable leashSolution: Carry this long leash that’s easy to store
Danielle Mühlenberg, dog trainer and blogger at
PawLeaks, is not a fan of retractable leashes when it comes to training. “Using a retractable leash sets owners up for failure since it encourages dogs to roam and it can be hard to pull back larger dogs. Instead, I'd recommend using a sturdy short leash or perhaps a long leash which is great for recall training,” she says.
Instead, opt for a 15-foot
long leash made of durable nylon. It gives you sturdy control and makes it easy to pull back even larger dogs. This leash is also easy to store — just use the coil to wrap it up when you get home for compact storage. 17 Problem: You have houseplants your dog wants to dig inSolution: Get a sandbox (or pool) for your dog to dig in instead
“Having houseplants (make sure they're not toxic) may encourage your dog to dig,” Mühlenberg states. “If possible, I always recommend using a sandbox to make sure your dog still has an outlet to do so”
swimming pool can certainly act as a splash area for your dog, but it can double easily as a sandbox to give your dog a productive, distinctive place to get out their digging instinct. Made of waterproof PVC, there’s no inflation needed to pop up this pool; instead, it has a clever folding design for storage. 18 Problem: You let your dog play with all their toys 24/7Solution: Have a lot of toys you switch out toys every now and then
You may think keeping your dog entertained with as many toys as possible is the way to go, but Mühlenberg disagrees. “You may encourage your dog not to play with the toys you bought with your hard-earned cash if you let them have access all day. Instead, rotate between a couple of high-quality toys with different textures and features,” she says.
This seven-pack of
rope toys has various sizes and shapes that can all handle even the toughest bites. The set is complete with a convenient carrying bag so you can hide the toys you want to hide or bring it along to the park for a play date. 19 Problem: You let your dog eat whenever, whereverSolution: Have a designated food bowl & meal time
“If you allow your dog to chow down on their food even before you've finished placing it down, or let them eat food under the dinner table, or allow a free-pass to any kind of naughty behavior around food, then you're setting yourself up for trouble. It's important to place boundaries around food for the sake of your dog's health and obedience,” explains Melissa Smith, former dog trainer and resident dog expert and content manager for
Raw & Fresh. “What you practice at home will determine how they are in public. The last thing you want is a dog to jump a little kid holding an icecream in the park because of bad (but allowed) behavior at home!”
slow-feeding bowl is a great way to prevent them from trying to chow down on the meal before you even fully place it on the floor. The ridges give them a chance to eat around slowly and helps with their digestion to boot. 20 Problem: You feed your dog from your plateSolution: Place their food in these mess-proof bowls
You may think that slipping your dog some steak at dinner is innocent, but Erika Barnes, dog trainer and founder of
Pet Smitten, says this has broader implications. “To perform effective dog training, dogs need to have an understanding of who’s in charge of their household and they need to know that they should be obedient to you. When you feed your dog food from your plate, it loses you a little bit of that authority and it will eventually become more and more difficult to train them out of other bad behaviors later down the line,” she explains.
Instead, give your dog their own meal far away from the table in this mess-proof
dog bowl set. The stainless steel bowls are easy to wash, and this set has the added benefit of the silicone mat, which catches crumbs and puddles, keeping your floors nice and clean. 21 Problem: You aren’t sure how to train your dogSolution: Use positive reinforcement by always having treats on hand
Jen Jones, dog trainer and founder of
Your Dog Advisor, believes in positive reinforcement as a training reward and the best way to do so is to be consistent. “Positive reinforcement is a type of training method that rewards the dog for good behaviors and does not punish the dog for bad behaviors. In order to train your dog using positive reinforcement, you should always make sure that you are taking it slow and being consistent with your training. One way to do this is by using treats such as kibble or a favorite toy,” she explains.
In order to make sure you always have treats around, wear this
belted pouch that can fit kibble, a poop bag dispenser, and your own belongings like a phone or headphones. This bag has a magnetic opening for easy reach, so you can reward your dog for small things, like not tugging, using the bathroom, heeling, and more. 22 Problem: You play with your dog to retrieve their toysSolution: Teach them to ‘drop it’ with this heavy-chew ball
Jacquelyn Kennedy, dog trainer and founder of
PetDT, explains that there’s one command you must teach your dog: “Drop.” “Something that can encourage bad behavior in your dog, unknowingly, is when you play with toys without teaching them to drop or give. Dogs love being chased, and love having to protect their toy from you in a playful manner, as you try and take it off them. But if boundaries aren’t set in place, with clear commands for dropping the item, this can lead to issues in possessive behavior long-term,” she says.
This is no ordinary
chew ball for teaching your dog to give you back their toys. It’s durable enough for even the strongest chewers and even has a built-in scent of things your dog will love like beef, cheese, or peanut butter. It also has an engaging squeaky noise your dog will love, making this all the better for dropping. 23 Problem: You pull back when your dog pulls the leashSolution: Use this durable leash made of heavy-duty nylon
leash with two handles at different points actually will eliminate the need to attempt to pull your dog back. Daniel Caughill, co-founder of The Dog Tale, says, “Leash pulling might not seem like a big deal when your dog is a puppy. But even modest-sized dogs can really put a lot of strength behind their pulling once they’re full-grown. When your dog pulls, don’t pull back. This only encourages them to pull harder. Instead, come to a complete stop and tell your dog to “come” until they turn around and return to your side. Once they do, reward their good behavior, and positively reinforce this behavior with praise and training treats for as long as they walk by your side.”
The durable nylon and comfortable padded handles on this leash make it easier to keep your dog close and in your control. When paired with positive reinforcement, you’ll be walking happily together in no time.
24 Problem: You are hesitant to take a new puppy on walksSolution: Get them used to walks by using a hands-free leash around your waist
Daniel Jackson, dog trainer and CEO of
Pet Lover Guy, says you should take your puppy for walks as soon as possible. “I know it can be worrying taking the little one out of the house and exposing them to potential illnesses but it’s important to leash train them as soon as you can so that you can walk your dog properly instead of your dog walking you...” he explains. “Keep a short leash to begin with. Your pup should be walking nicely next to you so that the leash has a little slack to it. If he begins to pull then quickly and gently tug the leash and give him a simple command such as ‘walk.’”
Consider teaching your pup to walk with this
hands-free leash, not just for it’s super convenient pouch (with a built-in poop bag dispenser) or comfortable belt but actually for the amount of slack it has as well. What seems like a small detail actually lets your dog walk nicely beside you even when you’re running. This is a great feature so you don’t have to worry about your pet struggling to keep up with you. 25 Problem: You reward your dog every now & then for good behaviorSolution: Acknowledge every good moment with pets & natural treats
You may give your dog a biscuit every now and then when they sit and shake on command, but Bethany Tate, managing editor of
Whole Pet Health, says you should reward everyday good behavior. “You should reward your dog’s good behavior with a treat. This reinforces good and helps curb bad behavior. For example, if your dog is sitting quietly or barking, pet them. This measure allows your dog to observe what kind of behavior would get them positive attention from owners. Don’t just reward good behavior once and stop. This practice has to be consistent,” she says.
Keep these all-natural
dog treats nearby to tell your pup “good job.” Made with ingredients like garbanzo bean flour, pumpkin, and peanut butter, these treats are actually human grade and suitable for dogs with allergies because they’re free of grain, gluten, and wheat. Break off a piece for your dog whenever they’re good — and maybe try a piece yourself, too. 26 Problem: You let your dog scratch your stuff when they’re alone Solution: Stick on these plastic shields that can be cut to size
Even if you use positive reinforcement, you can’t keep an eye on your dog
all the time. “You can go the extra mile by puppy-proofing your home. Don’t leave your delicate thing unattended. Supervise your ball of fluff to ensure they don’t do something menacing,” suggests Richard West, founder of PuppyHero.
scratch protectors adhere to just about any surface so any damage ends up on the plastic and not on your wood, walls, or fabric couch. Each sheet can be cut to custom-fit any area and the flexible vinyl can even bend to cover curved edges. 27 Problem: You don’t give your dogs anything to doSolution: Keep them busy by chewing on this dental toy
Meg Marrs, dog trainer and founder of
K9 of Mine, says one of the biggest pet owner mistakes is easy to do by accident. “One of the biggest things owners do to encourage bad behavior is simple: they don't give their dog anything to do! Inexperienced owners may be frustrated when their puppy starts chewing on the furniture or tearing up pillows, but this isn't a surprise when the dog hasn't been given any other kind of activity or outlet. Most owners know that their dog needs regular physical exercise and daily walks, but the honest truth is that mental exercise is just as (if not even more) essential for a dog's well-being,” she says.
To help curb boredom, she recommends grabbing a
Nylabone. While shaped like a bone, the toy is actually made of tough nylon that is meant to be long-lasting and helpful in the prevention of plaque and tartar buildup thanks to the ridges and texture on each section. 28 Problem: You discourage your dog from licking & chewingSolution: Fill this toy with treats to entice them to lick & chew
“Chewing, tearing, and licking are completely normal and natural behaviors for a dog. Inexperienced owners may think they need to ‘correct’ their dog for performing these behaviors on furniture, shoes, etc, but the dog just needs a better outlet. In fact, punishing a dog for performing these very instinctual, natural behaviors is an easy way to increase frustration and create new (and sometimes more challenging) behavior issues,” Marrs explains.
Encourage your dog to chew and lick productively with this
Kong, which can be filled with a treat and immediately given to your pup, though Marrs also suggests popping it in the freezer for a bit for a real treat. The bouncy rubber will keep them busy and happy as they try to dig the treat out. 29 Problem: You don’t have enriching toys for your dogSolution: Made sure they’re not bored with this treat-dispensing toy
Marrs says the
Kong Wobbler is one of her favorites when it comes to puzzle toys; she says it “encourages your dog to nose and paw at the toy to dislodge food.” This treat-dispensing toy can keep your dog entertained even when you’re not around, keeping your belongings safe. It’s made of durable robber, and once they find the delicious reward inside, the wobble action will still catch their eye and keep them playing. 30 Problem: You neglect housebreakingSolution: Keep your dog comfy in a crate with a dog bed
Aiden Taylor of
FurDooz says that not housebreaking your dog is a major mistake. “Housebreaking is a three-legged stool and if you want to correct your dog from urinating on your couch or recently washed carpet you need to do these three things: 1. Frequent leashed trips to the nearest park 2. Strict indoor supervision 3. Create a safe space by introducing a small crate where he can be while you're not watching,” he says.
Make the crate a comfy space with this waterproof
dog bed. The filling is surrounded by a waterproof inner lining which means accidents will be a-OK in this space. The plush cover is removable and machine-washable, too, so you can clean it without any scrubbing on your end.