Top Tips on Dog Behaviour

Below are proven top tips on dog behaviour developed over 25 years of working with dogs.

Jumping Up

We have recently seen a lot of people who have jumping up issues with their dogs.

Naturally dogs jump up because they want to greet you and say hello. You need to teach your dog how you would like them to say hello to you.

The most common mistake people make when the dog jumps up is to push the dog down shouting at them. This only teachs the dog that you are moody. To get your dog to stop jumping up, firstly you need to teach your dog the sit command and have a good sit. When your dog jumps up at you take your contact away, by this I mean your hands go up to your shoulders and your head turns away, stand still and tell your dog to sit (once)  dont move just wait until your dog offers the behaviour you have asked for, give it at least 30 seconds before repeating the sit command all the time keeping still your hands up and your head turned away. As soon as he sits go down to his level and praise him in the sit position if possible, also if you have a treat even better.

If you do this consistantly your dog will learn to sit to say hello. Ask all visitors to do the same rewarding him when he sits.

A Good Dog Growls

Dogs communicate in a different way to us humans, when they feel threatened and need to tell you to stop whatever it is your doing, they cannot speak your language, send you a text or write you a letter so they let you know with their body language, their growl and bite.

It is important that we start to respect the dogs body language and growls so the dog has no need to bite. A dog never wants to bite as he might in his world have to fight and get injured, so they try to warn us first. A dog doesnt have the ability to plan, nor does he live in the past or the future, they react on the moment.

If your dogs growls at you it is very important that you never tell him off in any way, also immediately look away avoiding eye contact and leave the dog alone. You must respect his warnings and then try and work out why he growled, was it over his food bowl or something you were taking off him? was he sat on the sofa or your bed and you tried to push him off? or were you grabbing his collar? or is he just in pain and doesnt want to be touched?

There are many reasons why dogs growl in many cases we need to retrain him in a positive way that there is no need to growl.

Below are a few examples but if your dog is growling you need to speak to a professional dog trainer/behaviourist for help.


Example One - Taking things out of the Dogs Mouth

From day one of owning the puppy/dog we are constantly taking things off them which they are not allowed to have, so in effect we are teaching the dog to defend what it has, this is also a natural instinct already in the dogs make up, so we make it worse without realising.This may cause the dog to growl.

It is important that if the dog has something in its mouth you dont want him to have, you offer him a swap with a high value food. This will teach the dog that it is good to hand over the object and eventually he wont mind getting things taken off him.

Always swap never take without reward  


Example Two - Food Bowl

It is a dogs natural instinct to defend what is in or near his mouth. So if your dog growls at you or family members when you are near his food bowl. He needs retraining to recognise you are not a threat and it is nice when people are near his food bowl.

You do this by throwing bits of ham/chicken (high value food not treats or biscuits) into his bowl every time you pass, dont stare at him or talk to him just keep throwing the food in until one day he steps back for you to throw the food in. He will then have learned that it is nice when you approach his bowl when he is eating. Eventually he will trust you around his food bowl but remember never take food off him as you have trained him that hands come to give not takeaway.


Distraction Techniques/Trigger Words

Dont tell your dog off if he is doing something you dont approve of, use distraction techniques.


First you need to condition your dog to the command you are going to use to distract him for example:

"Wheres your ball", "Whats this", "Chicken!", "Cheese!" etc

Teach them this command by everytime you use the word something of high value such as chicken is offered straight away to the dog as timing is the key or use his favourite toy as the reward and start to play straight away.


Never use this command to con or trick the dog, always play or pay when you use the word so the dog always trusts the word.


Example One:

If you see the dog chewing the TV wire and rush over shouting for him to stop it, the dog learns that chewing the wire gets your attention and will do it again on another occasion. The key here is negative or positive attention is still attention to the dog, so in effect you are training the dog to chew the wire.


Example Two:

You see the dog chewing the TV wire and instead of rushing over shouting, you use the trigger word you have developed eg "Wheres the Ball". The dog stops chewing the wire and looks at you, the attention is now focused on you, so you quickly reward with the ball and play. The key here is the dog forgets about chewing the wire because playing with you is much more fun and will not connect that chewing the wire initially got your attention.


Trigger words they trust are extremely useful for a whole raft of situations, and will make a big difference to the dogs behaviour if things are dealt with in this positive manner.  

Attention Seeking & Games

Attention seeking is one of the causes of a poor relationship with your dog and some behavioural problems. If you control the attention seeking and games you will have a good relationship with your dog.

Dogs are very good at getting our attention when we are at home with them, it is important that you get control of this behaviour early on as it can lead to over attachment and disruptive behaviour when left.


One of the best ways to teach the dog that you initiate the attention is to control the toys and games you play with him.

  • Keep the toys out of reach in a drawer or cupboard at all times (leave with chews to chew but no toys)
  • Use the trigger word you have taught your dog to start the play, ie "wheres your ball"

You now have his attention, go to the drawer and get the ball/toy out and start to play find or chase games. After 10-20 mins of play then say "finish" and put the toy away, give him a treat or chew and ignore him till you want to play again or do something.

The way to ignore a dog is to not touch or speak to him and more importantly dont look at him, the eye contact is look and they have won.

If the dog comes over nudging you wanting attention block eye contact nothing, when they accept this he will back down and go away. When they back off use plenty of praise for his good behaviour.

When you have finished playing make sure you give the dog something to do whilst you are busy, such as a kong stuffed with high value food or a raw hide chew soaked in butter or bovril but NEVER the toys, ....remember dogs need things to do just like us. 


In summary what you are teaching the dog is:

  • A trigger word that they can trust
  • That you initiate the attention
  • You are fun
  • That you end the attention

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