Managing Undesirable Dog Behaviors

Bad Poetry Day - Roses Aren't Edible

Pierson likes poop so I need to manage his behavior.

Dogs will be dogs, but some of the things they want to do are annoying, unpleasant, or possibly not safe. If someone is not familiar with dog training, their first instinct might be to try to correct the issue with punishment. Those who are familiar with better ways to stop an undesirable behavior will try behavioral modification techniques such as redirection and positive reinforcement. But sometimes, we don’t have to go through all this work. Sometimes we can eliminate an undesirable behavior by managing it.

Let me give you an example. My dog Pierson loves to eat my other dog Maya’s poop. I’ve considered training him not to eat it. But let’s be honest, even if I did teach him not to eat it, he will probably still try whenever I’m not looking. I’ve also considered giving Maya something like NaturVet Coprophagia Stool Eating Deterrent to make her poop taste bad. But I’d have to buy this stuff all the time or risk Pierson realizing the poop wasn’t tainted and eating it. So what did I do instead? I simply decided to always pick up Maya’s poop right after she poops. Yes, it is a bit inconvenient, especially in colder weather. But it’s more sanitary and it has completely stopped Pierson from eating her poop. No training, no expensive supplements.

Another example is with Pierson’s barking. As you may know from previous posts, I gave in and got him a no bark collar. It worked well much of the time. But sometimes he really couldn’t help himself from barking and I felt terrible about the collar shocking him. It finally occurred to me that I should try managing his barking instead. This is what I did:

Determine the Cause of the Behavior

Pierson barks at surprising noises and he barks at squirrels, rabbits, and birds. I decided that barking at noises isn’t such a bad thing. I want to know if someone is creeping around my house. Even though most of the noises Pierson barks at are nothing to be concerned about, I can live with that. But the barking at squirrels, rabbits, and birds when he can see them out the back door window was too much.

Eliminate the Cause of the Behavior

Like how I eliminated Pierson’s desire for eating Maya’s poop by picking up her poop, I managed Pierson’s barking at animals he sees through the window by blocking the view from the window. It worked like magic! By simply putting a large piece of paper over the bottom half of the door window, I eliminated Pierson’s barking by at least 70%.

Dog Pierson in Front of Blocked Window 1

See how I blocked the door window so that Pierson can’t bark at squirrels?

Dog Pierson in Front of Blocked Window 2

“How am I going to talk to the squirrels now?”

Other Ways to Eliminate Undesirable Behaviors

If your dog tends to get in the trash, eliminate the behavior by getting a trash can with a secure lid or by putting the trash can in the pantry. If you don’t have a pantry, use a smaller trash can and put it under the kitchen sink. You may have to throw out trash more often, but isn’t that better than picking up trash from the floor and worrying about whether your dog ate something harmful?

Eliminate digging behaviors by filling his favorite digging spots with rocks or even his own poop. Keep your dog out of your garden by putting decorative fencing around your garden. Keep your dog from trying to bolt out the door by putting his leash on him before you open the door. Stop counter surfing by making sure food is always put away and/or out of reach. Keep your dog off the furniture by laying a sheet of foil over it when you’re not around.

Managing your dog’s undesirable behaviors isn’t always feasible and doesn’t always work. But if you think outside the box, you might just come up with a simpler way to stop your dog from doing things you don’t like. You can save time and even money by not having to hire a dog trainer.

Does your dog have an annoying behavior that you’d like to stop? Comment below and let’s see if we can come up with some creative ways to manage your dog’s behavior.

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8 Responses to “Managing Undesirable Dog Behaviors”

  1. My Golden Life Says:

    Great post! This is the first chance I’ve had to read it. Callie will occasionally eat her own poop, right after she’s “unloaded”. I figured out some time ago, though, that it’s usually because she’s hungry. Other times it’s because she has seen me cleaning it up. So, I increased the amount of food I give her at mealtimes by just a little bit and started cleaning up after them while they were in the house. That has cut back her poop eating by about 99%.

  2. 2 Brown Dawgs Says:

    Glad you fond something that worked. We tend to train away from undesirable behaviors. I am not a huge fan of managing because I think it requires the person to change their behavior and the dog ends up running the household. Now things like picking up the poop right away and not leaving trash accessible we do anyway. Barking, digging, making noise at animals outside a window we would train them away from those behaviors using basic obedience. “Sit” means sit quietly and works pretty well in many situations.

    • Nature by Dawn Says:

      I agree that training is probably the best bet. Not everyone has the time or know-how, though, so managing can be an easy alternative. I tried training for Pierson’s barking before I resorted to the bark collar and before I decided to manage the barking. He is one of those yappy dogs that has to bark at everything and so curbing his barking has been more difficult than with any other dog I’ve ever had. Even when I get him to sit quietly instead of bark, it doesn’t stop him the next time. I’ve tried other techniques too, but its like he just can’t help himself.

  3. Jodi Says:

    I’m glad you found a way to manage Pierson’s bad habit. We are dealing with the poop eating also and I am working hard to pick it up in the yard, but that does not stop her from eating it on our walks. Those temptations require treats.

    I do manage some stuff….the trash is put away, things she tends to gravitate towards are put away. The barking doesn’t bother me. Typically if they bark it’s because something/someone is outside. i usually just walk to the door (we have a little enclosed deck) let them look out and quietly reassure them all is well.

    • Nature by Dawn Says:

      Poop – Luckily Pierson doesn’t eat other dogs’ poop on walks. Barking – That method for barking works with Maya and Pierson, but not when it comes to squirrels. 🙂

  4. Donna O. Says:

    I totally agree. We tried many things to *fix* Toby’s poop eating too, and in the end, management is the only way. Glad it’s working for you…and for two of your issues.

  5. janeboha Says:

    Eating poop is, fortunately, one thing we never had to contend with (although our dog did tend to take naps outside in the yard in the cat’s poop.) But we did have the picking-tissues=out-of-the-trash issue. Here is how we dealt with it on an illustrated blog post called “Extreme Makeover: http://bit.ly/1JxmLAi

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