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3 Things That Can Make The Biggest Improvements To a Dog's Behavior | Pupford

December 28th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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As a professional dog trainer, I have helped many pet parents overcome problem behaviors with their dogs and have taught them how to have a better relationship with their pups. While all training plans and journeys are unique, this article will outline 3 things you can start doing today that will help you reach your training goals and have a happier relationship with your pup. Let's get into it!



provide mental enrichment to improve dogs behavior

If you take anything from today’s article, let it be this: Mental enrichment is a fundamental aspect of a dog’s overall well-being.

Daily opportunities for mental stimulation go beyond physical exercise and will prevent boredom, reduce stress and anxiety, improve problem-solving skills, and leave them feeling fulfilled.

Mental enrichment can help prevent problem behaviors like destructive chewing and excessive barking and is a great foundation for training plans for more complex behaviors like reactivity or resource guarding.

Oftentimes, problem behaviors that arise are due to a lack of mental enrichment and a dog's needs not being met.

For example, digging and chewing are natural behaviors for dogs but can be a nuisance in our homes if they are not provided with appropriate outlets.

Rather than digging holes in the garden or chewing on our furniture, we can provide them with a kiddie pool for digging and long-lasting chews.

One of the easiest ways to start incorporating mental enrichment into your dog’s daily routine is at mealtime. You can use snuffle mats, lick mats, or puzzle toys. By providing outlets to sniff, lick, and chew, our dogs will naturally be more relaxed and fulfilled due to the release of feel-good hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.

Learn more about the benefits of sniffing, licking, and chewing here!

Mental enrichment comes in many forms and you can experiment with all different types to see what is most enjoyable for your dog. To learn more about mental enrichment check out our blog post: Enrichment for Dogs: A-Z Guide + DIY Ideas


teach your dog to settle down

While it may sound simple, knowing how to relax is not an innate skill that all dogs possess. Working dogs whose needs are not being met, dogs who are hyperactive, suffering from anxiety, or lack focus and impulse control, will all benefit from learning the skill of relaxation.

My favorite way to teach dogs how to relax is through Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. This is something that can be taught to both puppies and adult dogs and will help them learn how to remain calm and stress-free around a variety of stimuli. Check out the full Relaxation Protocol here.

To sum it up, the protocol is designed to teach your dog how to relax and focus on you. It's broken up into 15 days and gradually increases in difficulty as you go. Your dog will need to understand "down" to begin this.

Ex. Day 1:

  • Down for 5 seconds
  • Down for 10 seconds
  • Down while you take one step back and return
  • Down while you take two steps back and return
  • Down for 10 seconds, etc.

With this skill, our dogs will be less stressed in overwhelming situations and have improved coping skills.


redirect yourdog to a chew toy

Once you understand the concept of redirection and replacement, you will have a much easier time going about addressing behaviors like jumping, destructive chewing, or excessive barking.

When our dog is struggling with a problem behavior, it can be really easy just to want to tell them “No” and wish they would listen, don’t worry we have all been there. Instead, we need to redirect the behavior to put a stop to it at that moment, and then replace it with something else.

For example, when your dog jumps on you, we have all probably heard the tip, “Just turn your back to them”. While this is true, this is only interrupting the behavior.

We want to build on that and teach them a replacement behavior.

Our dogs jump on us to get our attention, if all we do is turn our back and ignore them, they will likely just become frustrated and may continue to jump.

Instead, teach them an alternate way to get our attention, like sitting. If they jump, turn your back and ask them to sit, once they sit, give them lots of praise and attention. To build a solid reinforcement history, routinely give them attention and praise when they are sitting.

To learn more, check out our blog post on Redirecting Problem Behaviors.

While everyone will go through a different training journey and find various techniques that work best for them and their dogs; I hope you can implement these 3 things in your daily routine to help improve your dog's behavior and your relationship with your pup. Happy training!


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