How to Stop Your Dog’s Annoying Behavior

Teach your dog to sit for a ball throw instead of jumping and walk toward a squirrel instead of pulling your arm off.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #30

Last week, I explained the Premack principle--how you can use a behavior your dog loves to do as a reward for his doing something you want. This week, how to apply the principle to a couple of annoying behaviors and replace them with something easier to live with.

Get Your Dog to Stop Barking and Jumping During Fetch

Many people play fetch with their dogs. And many of those dogs bring back the ball and then fling themselves into the air and bark until their person throws it for them. From the dog’s point of view, jumping and barking are a way to demand that ball – a successful way.

This behavior usually isn’t dangerous, unless we’re talking about a big dog body-slamming you. If your dog is loud and bouncy about wanting the ball, and that doesn’t bother you, fine--The Dog Trainer will not demand that you change it. But self-control in exciting situations is a valuable skill for a dog. And if the bounce-and-bark does get on your nerves, a little patience and the wisdom of Dr. Premack will help change it.

Teach Your Dog That Barking Won’t Make You Throw the Ball

When you’re playing fetch, it’s highly likely that your dog will chase the ball. Sitting, standing quietly, and lying down are all unlikely behaviors in this context, especially since bouncing and barking have worked well thus far. As of now, though, bouncing and barking will no longer succeed. Instead, when your dog brings the ball back, you will take one of the following tacks.

Wait for Your Dog To Try Something Else …

Tactic one: just stand there and wait. Bark bark bark, bounce bounce bounce, bark bark bark, bounce bounce bounce. Sooner or later, your dog on springs has to take a break to catch his breath or rest his legs or just experience bafflement--why aren’t you throwing the damn ball? That is your golden moment: the less likely behavior, standing or sitting quietly, has occurred. Reward it. Instantly throw that ball so your dog can engage in the much more likely behavior of ball chasing. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Over time, your dog will arrive at a quiet sit or stand faster and faster, and eventually he’ll give up the bark-and-bounce altogether. Remember, when people speak of “magic” in training, what they mean is “patience and repetition.”

… Or Ask Him to Sit


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).

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