Tired of your dog’s bad behavior? Fix it with this trainer’s simple three step process

Dog with guilty look on his face
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether the result of boredom, injury, illness, or incorrect training methods, problem behaviors are not uncommon in dogs.

Things like barking, chewing, digging, begging, and separation anxiety, can add additional challenges to your life as a pet parent.

But the good news is, learning how to deal with a badly behaved dog isn't as difficult as you might imagine it to be. 

In fact, all it takes is a little insider knowledge and a bit of practice and you can transform your dog's behavior in a matter of weeks.

"If you’re sick and tired of constantly shouting ‘NO!’ or ‘STOP THAT!’ at your dog whenever they bark at the door, jump up at house guests or any other behavior that drives you crazy, there’s a foolproof formula for successfully tackling the problem, once and for all," explains qualified and certified dog trainer, Lisa Burton.

According to Burton, telling your dog to stop doing something simply won't work, but coming up with a replacement behavior, popping it on cue and proofing it well, will. 

Read on as Burton explains her three-step process for saying adios to unwanted behaviors once and for all...

1. Mutually exclusive behavior: "An MEB is simply a behavior that you are happy with that makes it impossible for your dog to simultaneously perform the behavior that you don't want," explains Burton. "If we take a dog who barks and jumps up at guests at the door as an example, a mutually exclusive behavior to teach to eradicate this problem would be to sit quietly on their bed instead."

2. Control and management: "When tackling any unwanted behavior, it is critical that we do all we can to prevent any rehearsal of the unwanted behavior, during the re-training process," says Burton. "So following with the same example, whilst we work on teaching and proofing the cue for the dog to go and sit on the bed, we would need to ensure that no rehearsal of jumping at the door was possible, using closed doors, a lead, a baby gate, etc."

3. Changed association: "Currently, the dog associates the sound of the doorbell with the excited greeting (and attention) of a guest," explains Burton. "We need to change this by taking the trigger and pairing it with a new association. In this scenario, we could teach the dog that the doorbell is a trigger for food to be calmly delivered to their bed, by recording the sound on your phone and repeating this pairing experience throughout the day."

Burton stresses that each of the above three elements is crucial to the success of changing your dog's behavior.

It's important that you do each step in the process because any instance where your dog performs the unwanted behavior and is rewarded for it will strengthen it, increasing the likelihood that the behavior will continue.

"Taking the excitement and arousal out of the sound of the doorbell and turning it into a cue for your new MEB, means that over time, your dog's natural choice will be to perform the behavior you do want, not the behavior that drives you mad."

Training any new skill or behavior takes time, patience, and consistency. If you feel you and your dog would benefit from some extra advice and guidance, we recommend reaching out to a professional trainer for support.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.