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Behavioral Tips for Dogs

Training a dog takes a lot of effort, diligence, and patience, and sometimes it can be difficult to know where to begin without behavioral tips for dogs. Some things to consider include correcting behaviors that are undesirable, preventing boredom (as bored dogs are prone to chew or dig), and using positive reinforcement for good behaviors you want to encourage. It’s also important to remember that every dog is unique. Whether you are trying to teach a new behavior or modify an existing one, you’ll have to figure out what works best for you and your dog. 

Below we have outlined some helpful information in the area of behavioral tips for dogs that may help you in your training efforts. Of course, our Longwood team is always here for you to help answer questions or point you toward resources that will support you in your training journey with your furry friend.

Tip 1: Target Training Dogs with Touch

To start off our behavioral tips for dogs, we’ll cover targeting. Targeting is a method for teaching your dog to touch a part of their body, ie. paw, shoulder, hip, or nose, to a specific object. The most common manifestation of this tactic is asking the dog to touch his or her nose to a person’s hand, which we will refer to as “nose targeting.”

Why Employ Targeting?

Targeting is effective for a lot of reasons. It is a fun and simple behavior to teach and is a basic skill or building block that can be used to teach many other behaviors such as:

  • Moving your dog from one place to another, such as on or off the furniture, across the room, or into another room
  • Entering or exiting a carrier, crate, or vehicle
  • Directing your dog on and off the scale or exam table at the vet’s office
  • An alternative cue for your dog to come when called
  • Opening and closing doors, drawers or cabinets, or even the refrigerator

Target training can also help your dog in the areas of confidence, greeting new people, and even diverting your dog’s attention from something scary. 

Learn more about target training with touch, and try it at home with your pup today.

Tip 2: Nailboards Instead of Nail Clipping

Another behavior you can teach your dog that will potentially make your life a lot easier is using a nail board. Many dogs do not enjoy having their nails trimmed, and some dogs are so terrified by the act that they can make it quite a feat. Did you know that dogs can be taught to file their own nails using a nail board? This behavior draws from their natural urge to dig, and can eliminate the whole grueling process of nail clipping.

Learning to Use the Nail Board

Dogs can learn quickly how to use a nail board with very little training. You can teach this behavior by breaking down the completed act into smaller steps, rewarding your dog for completing each one on its own. 

There are many creative ways you can encourage your dog to file down nails to eliminate the need for trimming, including: 

  1. Place the board on the ground, sprinkle it with treats, then cover it with a towel. Dogs will often dig through the towel to find the treats, filing their own nails in the process.
  2. Place a squeaking toy on the ground underneath the filing board, then encourage your dog’s interest in the toy. Often your dog will dig at the board to get to the toy.
  3. Place the board in a high traffic area where your dog frequently walks. Walking over the board repeatedly will naturally file down the nails.
  4. If your dog scratches to go outside, place a small nail board on the door to encourage your dog to scratch the board instead.

Learn more about nail board use for dogs, and if you have any questions about dog training or behavior tips for your pets, chat with your Longwood veterinarian at your next appointment. We’d be happy to help! This is one of our favorite behavioral tips for dogs.

Tip 3: Have the Crate Out and Open, Make it a Comfort and Not a Punishment

Proper crate training is central to our behavioral tips for dogs. A common mistake we see with new puppy owners is using the dog crate as a time-out. Unfortunately, this makes it a negative space for the puppy, which can lead to the puppy barking or whining for hours on end. Make the dog crate a familiar and safe space for your puppy to prevent this.

Nowadays, most of us spend hours in our home office. If that’s the case, then that’s where the crate and the puppy should be. If you are binging a tv show in the family room, have the puppy and crate in there with you! Some people prefer to have multiple crates so they don’t have to carry the crate throughout the day, whereas others prefer to get the puppy comfortable with one specific crate.

Puppy crates should:

  • Be in the same room as you and in a spot where you can be seen.
  • Be comfortable physically and emotionally. Think of a puppy pillow AND an old shirt with your scent!
  • Have a treat inside and a safe chew toy for them to gnaw on.

Puppy crates should not:

  • Be “compact.” If your puppy has gotten bigger, their crate might need to too.
  • Be a prison. Don’t lock them inside for too long or use it to punish them.
  • Be left dirty. If your puppy had an accident, please don’t make them sit in it as a lesson.

How to Get a Puppy Comfortable with a Crate

Once your puppy has gone into their crate, gently close the door to introduce the concept of confinement training. Then, stay in the room, and after a few minutes, let them out to show them it’s only temporary. Repeat this process, leaving the puppy confined for more extended periods each time.

Once they are able to relax inside the crate for minutes without seeming anxious, try leaving the room for a moment. When you come back, give them a treat if they didn’t cry out. If they bark or whine when you leave, try again later and come back sooner. The key to this exercise is to reward them after you leave but before they cry.

Crate training takes practice, and it will be frustrating at times. Do not lose your temper and use the crate as a punishment no matter what. Do not toss them in after they have an accident, bang on the crate when they are whining, or place it far away from you, so you don’t have to hear them. Ensure they have had plenty of activity and have gone to the restroom before putting them in the crate to relax. If they ever start to cry, take them out. A puppy crate is a lifesaver for dog owners, and it should be a happy addition to the puppy’s life too.

You can read more behavioral tips for dogs about confinement training here and other Behavior Bytes here!

Check back often for more information on Behavioral Tips for Dogs! 

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