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Fixing Bad Dog Behaviors

Dog pulling your leash? Get help from dog behaviorist and trainer Kathy Santo.
The Martha Stewart Show, January 2007

Dog behaviorist and trainer Kathy Santo shares some tips for fixing your pet's bad habits that could potentially be dangerous.

Leash Pulling
Make sure you're using proper equipment with your dog. A loose buckle collar and a leash that's too thin give you less control.

  • Use a martingale collar, which consists of two loops. The large loop is placed around the dog's neck and adjusted to fit loosely. The leash is then clipped to the ring on the small loop. When the dog pulls, the tension on the leash pulls the smaller loop tighter, making the loop around its neck tighter, thus preventing escape.
  • Use a leash no longer than 6 feet. The heavier the dog, the wider the leash needs to be for proper control.
  • Each time your dog starts to pull, stop the dog for 10 seconds, saying, "Easy. Easy. Easy." By stopping in your tracks every time he pulls, the dog will eventually learn that he won't gain any ground by pulling on the leash. You should start to see results in a few days, unless you have a large dog with a real propensity to pull -- this could take several weeks of consistent training before seeing results with such a dog.

Jumping on People
When you get excited after the doorbell rings and say, "Who's at the door?" you're conditioning the dog to get amped up. In addition to getting people's clothes dirty during the winter with filthy paws, your dog can knock someone down, especially a toddler or an elderly person. Here's how to curb this bad behavior.

  • Don't act excited when the doorbell rings.
  • Before answering the door, put your dog on a leash and have your dog sit.
  • Jumping is an attention-seeking behavior, so tell your guests to ignore your dog for at least the first 20 minutes they come in the house. Don't feel bad for the dog, because he'll get a reward.
  • If your dog starts to jump, gently pull on the leash. You have to treat this like an addiction; if he gets a little, he's only going to want to more -- you have to break the cycle completely.
  • Give your dog a treat that lasts a while when the doorbell rings, so that every time he hears the doorbell, he associates it with the food reward rather than with exciting people at the door.
  • Once you've taught your dog not to jump, if you have a guest who wants the dog to jump up on him, you can teach the dog an "up, up" command.

Resources
For more of Kathy's dog-training tips, visit petcentric.com.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to petcentric.com, a community for dog lovers created by Purina and Kathy Santo. One of the dog treats featured in this segment is from Busy Bone.