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

Tactic two: give your dog the cue to sit. I mention “sit” because it’s the cue most dogs know best, but of course if your dog knows “down” or “stand” best, you can go with that instead. Take this give-a-cue approach if frustration makes your dog too frantic and he needs a hint, or if you don’t trust yourself to patiently wait out the bark-and-bounce and you’re pretty sure your dog will respond to your cue. Same rule as for the wait-it-out approach--the instant your dog’s tushy hits the ground, throw that ball. And practice, practice, practice.


Giving a cue can be faster initially. Sooner or later, though, if you don’t want to have to say “Sit” every time your dog returns the ball in every game of fetch, you will need to wait quietly till the lightbulb goes on over his head and he sits without being asked. Also, remember the possibility that your excited dog can’t take in your cue; you may have to wait him out even if it’s hard for you. Finally, a few dogs will begin to mouth or bodyslam or even growl when a tried-and-true behavior no longer works for them. If that describes your dog, hire a good reward-based trainer to help you teach him better frustration tolerance and self-control.

Get Your Dog to Stop Lunging After Squirrels During Walks

Squirrels elicit another common annoying dog behavior. You’re walking your dog down the street, minding your own business, when a squirrel appears at the base of a tree 20 feet away and WHAM, your dog hits the end of the leash, taking your arm with her and instantly doubling its length.

Be Prepared for Squirrels

Dr. Premack can help. First, you will need to watch closely for squirrels as you walk your dog. No spacing out. Second, as you walk, give your dog only a couple of feet of leash to play with. The more leash he has, the more momentum he can build up, painfully jerking his neck and your shoulder. A double-handed grip on the leash may help. Keep your center of gravity low and stable.

Make Sure Lunging Gets Your Dog Nowhere

If you can spot a squirrel before your dog does, great, but realistically you’re doing well if you can manage simultaneity here. Your dog may freeze for a moment; more likely, he lunges. Because you’ve prepared by giving him only a little bit of leash and keeping your center of gravity low, you remain in place and he doesn’t get far. Now he’s straining toward the squirrel but not getting closer. Your job is to settle in and stand there. Say nothing and do nothing except hold your ground. There will come a moment when your dog shifts his weight backward, or sits, or looks at you. In that moment, the leash will no longer be tight. While still giving your dog just a couple of feet of leash, immediately take a step toward the squirrel.

Move Forward Only When the Leash Is Loose

Almost certainly, your dog will again hit the end of the leash.


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).