You're making your dog behave badly if you aren't doing any of these things, according to trainers

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ByClaire Epting
Originally Published: 

Our pups add so much joy to our lives, and we love them for it. But they are animals, after all, and they’re bound to make mistakes. In many cases, there are certain things you may not be doing that may be leading to unwanted behaviors. Luckily, dog trainers have given us their best tips on what you should be doing — and these genius pet products can help, working to curb destructive chewing, barking, leash-pulling, and more.

First, canines always have and always will love to chew — it’s one of their natural instincts. By providing your furry friend with a durable chew toy, you’re redirecting their attention from another tantalizing object, such as your tennis shoe. You can also tire your dog out with a puzzle toy that stimulates their mind, so they’ll feel less inclined to dig through your trash when you’re not around. So if you’re not doing any of these clever, expert-recommended things to make your dog behave better, now’s the time to get started.


Giving your dog a mentally-enriching toy with high-value rewards

Sometimes, the only way to deter your dog from destructive behavior is by piquing their interest with an enriching toy such as this snuffle mat. “Utilizing enrichment tools with high-value food or treats is so important in providing our pets an outlet,” says Tess Marty, dog trainer and contributor for Dog Spotted. While your dog sniffs out the treats you hide in the snuffle mat’s fleece folds, they won’t think about digging through the trash or chewing on your shoes.


Creating an appropriate place for digging behavior

Designed with multiple flaps, this digging toy encourages your dog to forage for their reward — all without ruining your freshly planted garden. Marty emphasizes that digging and foraging are part of a dog’s “ancestral instincts,” and shouldn’t be a cause for concern as long as you provide a healthy outlet for them. “A lot of times, pet parents see these behaviors as a nuisance, when in reality, they’re just natural dog behaviors!” she says.


Letting your dog chew on this durable flavored bone toy

Chewing is another one of your dog’s natural instincts, which is why it’s a good idea to always provide them with something that’s safe to gnaw on. This wishbone-shaped chew toy is durable and hard-wearing, perfect for aggressive chewers. It comes in three tantalizing flavors — chicken, bacon, and peanut — so your dog will stay interested over time.

  • Available flavors: Chicken, Bacon, Peanut
  • Available sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Giant


Deterring your pup from chewing on sticks

It’s no secret that dogs love chewing on sticks, but natural wood can cause sharp splinters in your pup’s mouth as well as digestive problems. This stick-shaped chew toy has the taste and texture of real wood, but it’s much safer — and it causes less mess. Amazon reviewers love it; one wrote, “This chew stick lasts a long time, and keeps my dog (80-lb Anatolian Shepherd/Kangal Dog) busy for hours. A lot of chew toys just get eaten, and I don't think that's great for the dog, but this one provides hours of satisfying chew time for her.”


Giving your dog opportunities to safely “hunt”

Many dogs have a strong prey drive — some are just hard-wired to hunt. Rather than letting them have a go at the squirrels in your backyard, you can give them this interactive plush toy with an enticing tail attachment. The battery-powered ball toy wiggles, vibrates, and even barks, keeping your dog interested during their entire play session.

  • Available styles: 4


Putting on a no-pull harness before walks

If daily walks with your pup are proving to be stressful, using an easy-guide harness — such as this one from 2 Hounds Design — can assist you in regaining control and reinforcing good behavior. “A harness with multiple points of attachment can help to redirect them when they’re pulling, or to keep them safe on a run,” says Marty. It comes in several sizes and an array of high-visibility colors, so you can pick the one that fits your dog best.

  • Available sizes: X-Small — XX-Large
  • Available colors: 19


Incorporating high-value treats into your training sessions

Not all dog treats are created equally — a piece of kibble isn’t nearly as interesting as a shred of wild-caught salmon. In fact, incorporating high-value rewards into your training routine can be the key to getting your dog to work on more difficult behaviors. Aiden Taylor, founder of FurDooz, recommends using freeze-dried treats to capture your dog’s interest because they “break up nicely and smell extra tasty.” These HOLI treats come in flavors like turkey, salmon, chicken, and beef liver.

  • Available flavors: 6


Leading your dog with this durable, retractable leash

Does it feel like your dog is pulling your arm out of its socket every time you run into a distraction on your walk? “The best way of correcting bad pull is to have a retractable but powerful dog leash, like Mighty Paw,” says Taylor. Mighty Paw’s retractable nylon leash is attached to an easy-grip handle that allows you to control its 16-foot length at all times. A reflective stripe provides extra visibility when walking at night.

  • Available colors: Green, Orange


Using this handheld clicker during training

Training rewards don’t just come in the form of treats. Using a clicker offers your canine friend an auditory reward when they’ve exhibited good behavior. “PetSafe Click-R combined with a treat would be my go-to gadget,” says Taylor. The wallet-conscious training tool is even designed with a finger band that keeps it from sliding out of your hand.

  • Available colors: Purple, Blue


Exercising your dog’s mind with a puzzle feeder

A tired dog is a well-behaved dog, but that doesn’t just apply to physical exercise. Providing your pupper with a mental challenge during mealtime will help tucker them out — which in turn prevents them from engaging in unwanted behaviors. “One of the easiest ways is to feed your pet's meal from a puzzle feeder,” says Kaitlan Helton, certified dog trainer at Animal Care Services in San Antonio, Texas. This one is designed with multiple sliding compartments that conceal your dog’s kibble, encouraging them to sniff and forage for their food.

  • Available styles: 4


Providing mental stimulation during the day

Whether you work long hours or have a busy day planned, providing your dog with a mentally stimulating outlet will curb destructive behaviors while you’re away. Helton likes wobble toys, and the Starmark Bob-A-Lot toy dispenses treats as your dog nudges it, with adjustable openings that allow you to control the difficulty level — so your pup won’t get bored over time.

  • Available colors: Small, Large


Making mealtime more interesting for your dog

Helton says a puzzle feeder is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog, but it’s also helpful if your pet has tendency to scarf down their food the second you place the bowl on the floor. This slow feeder is available in a range of sizes and shapes and challenges your dog to eat their kibble out of the deep grooves. It can extend the length of your dog’s meal up to 10 times, so it’s a great way to keep your dog occupied when you need some time to yourself.

  • Available sizes: 5
  • Available styles: 13


Giving your dog physical exercise

Daily physical exercise is a must for any dog, but what happens when you simply don’t have the time to properly tire your dog out? “If your dog is okay around bikes, get an attachment to connect under your bike's seat to attach a leash,” says Helton. This bike leash attachment connects to your dog’s back-clip harness, allowing them to run alongside you while you ride. According to Helton, this can tucker them out in “as little as 10 minutes.”


Exercising your dog’s body & mind simultaneously

Another way to get your dog up and moving is by using these colorful plastic hoops to create a DIY obstacle course in your backyard or living room. Helton says, “Using a hula hoop and some high-value treats, like dehydrated beef liver, lure your dog through the hoop while the bottom of the hoop is touching the ground. Once they get the hang of that, lure them through the hoop using the treats with the hoop an inch off the ground.” From there, you can work your way up, and once you establish this behavior, you’ll be able to tire your dog out without even leaving the house.


Entertaining a bored dog

Leaving your dog alone for more than a few hours? Marissa Sunny, Supervisor of Lifesaving and Care at Best Friends Animal Society recommends providing them with a mentally stimulating toy such as this one from Outward Hound. “Dogs are incredibly smart and can easily get bored if they aren't given ways to use their minds and problem solve,” she explains. Designed with several spinning and sliding compartments for hiding food, the durable toy can hold up to one cup of kibble at a time.

  • Available styles: 21


Scheduling a routine for your dog

Dogs thrive on routine — you’d be surprised just how many destructive behaviors fall to the wayside as soon as they feel secure in their daily patterns. “A routine creates consistency that dogs can hang onto, routine for housing training and good habits,” says Sunny. This calendar notepad allows you to map out your weekly schedule, from daily walks to feeding times, so you can feel confident knowing your dog’s needs are met.


Crate training your dog

Crate training can work wonders for your dog, especially if they struggle with separation anxiety. This foldable crate creates a small, comfortable retreat for your pup, and it can be collapsed and stored when not in use. “While training, crates will give you piece of mind that your dog can't get into anything,” Sunny says. Choose from multiple sizes to fit your dog.

  • Available sizes: 6


Breaking the habit of barking

Does your dog constantly bark at visitors, squirrels, and other dogs? Sunny recommends dog trainer Brandon McMillan’s Shake & Break training tool, which creates a loud rattling sound that breaks your pup’s focus on the object of their distraction. “Once their concentration is broken, you can begin giving them a new training command to keep their attention away from whatever was causing the barking,” explains Sunny.


Giving your dog a designated place to be

Providing your dog with a cozy, plush bed — such as this donut-shaped one with raised sides for extra security — can help you reach your training goals more quickly. “For example, if your dog barks every time you use the vacuum, tell them to go to their dog bed or to solve a puzzle toy,” says Sunny. Pretty soon, they’ll learn to return to their bed rather than engage in unwanted or aggressive behavior.

  • Available sizes: Small, Medium, Large
  • Available colors: 4


Bringing treats along on walks

When training your dog to stay calm while walking on a leash, having a supply of treats on hand can be a huge help. “If you aren't bringing treats on walks, you're leaving what your puppy learns about walking to chance,” says Curtis Kelley, a Philadelphia-based certified professional dog trainer and member of the VetriScience VetriExpert team of veterinary professionals. Make it extra easy on yourself by attaching this small, waterproof treat pouch to your leash or belt. This way, you don’t have to dig through your pockets while walking to grab one.


Giving them calming treats before guests come over

While coming home to greet an excited pup can be the highlight of the day, it’s important to curb their jumping and barking so it doesn’t cause behavioral problems later down the line — for example, when you have guests over. Kelley recommends these calming treats from VetriScience, which are formulated with fast-acting ingredients including L-Theanine and vitamin B1. “Even if your puppy loves to jump at you, he'll have an easier time keeping four feet on the floor with the safe and fast-acting Composure,” Kelley says.

  • Available flavors: Peanut Butter, Bacon, Chicken


Helping your pup de-stress with a satisfying toy

Certified professional dog trainer Nicole Ellis recommends a KONG toy “to help your dog settle, de-stress and relax.” She says this classic toy is “cost-friendly and highly effective,” and dog owners agree — it’s earned a 4.6-star overall rating after more than 55,000 reviews. The super durable toy stands up to heavy chewers, and is available in a range of sizes, so you can get one that works best for your pup.

  • Available sizes: X-Small — XX-Large


Using non-crumbly (& non-distracting) dog treats

Ellis says, “Using treats that aren't meat-based or are crumbly can lead to distractions and possibly even a less motivated dog.” She recommends these air dried dog treats by Ziwi: “I love that it’s 98% meat, which means more of the food is burned off to energy and less is pooped out.” The treats are made with ethically sourced meat and boosted with natural chondroitin and glucosamine to help support joint health.


Socializing your dog with other pets & people

Getting your pup out and about in the world is of prime importance. Leonard Gomez, founder of Runball, says, “The process of socialization allows dogs to get used to things in their environment, such as children, other adults, other animals, objects, environments, and various situations. Without socialization, dogs may develop fears and phobias.” To streamline trips out of the house, get this car seat cover that protects leather and upholstery from claws, fur, and accidents. You (and your dog) will be a lot less stressed when you reach your destination.


Giving your dog plenty of exercise

You probably know that exercise can help prevent health problems, but Gomez notes that it can also help prevent behavior problems. This flirt pole is a great way to get pup’s heart pumping while allowing them to work out some energy. The squeaky toy at the end of the pole is great for holding your dog’s attention, and you can choose from two pole lengths: 24 inches and 36 inches.

  • Available sizes: 24 inches, 36 inches