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Training Your Dog to Misbehave

Your dog watches everything you do. He reads your body language and tone of voice. He knows how you’ll respond to certain behaviors. Could you be training your dog to misbehave?

Imagine this scenario: You leave your new sneakers on the floor. To your dog, anything on the floor is in his territory unless you train him differently. He snatches a sneaker and runs around the house with it, with you in hot pursuit. To your dog, this is a wonderful game; he’s having a great time doing what you don’t want him to do!

It doesn’t help to scold or punish your dog for doing what you’ve inadvertently done - you trained him to misbehave by starting a fun game of “chase me through the house.” Have you ever discovered that while you weren’t watching, your dog grabbed the end of the toilet paper and ran down the hall with it in a fun game of Toilet Paper Tetherball? Your dog certainly gets your attention when you find your house decorated with Charmin!

By giving undue attention to your dog when he misbehaves, you are actually reinforcing that behavior, causing him to repeat it at will. What to do instead? First, ignore the behavior. Don’t chase your dog around the house yelling at him; he thinks you’re playing! He’ll drop the stolen item(s) when he sees that he gets no reaction from you. Stay calm! Grab your sneaker back and pick up the toilet paper without reacting to your dog.

Teach your dog the “Leave it!” command. Whenever you notice that he’s snatched some unauthorized - and possibly dangerous - object, say his name to get his attention and then give the command: “Max, leave it!” As you speak the command in an authoritative tone of voice, use a corresponding hand gesture such as pointing at the floor. If your dog is leashed out in public, give a gentle tug on his leash to steer him away from the foreign object while giving the command.

Training your dog to obey the “Leave it!” command will not only save your sneakers, the underwear in your laundry basket, reams of toilet paper, and very possibly your dog’s life or health. Dogs are naturally curious about everything in their environment; the last thing you want is for him to unwisely approach a cranky porcupine or a deadly anti-freeze spill.

And put your shoes in the closet!

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