New owners may be tempted to scoop up adorable puppies when they bark, give in to whining, or delay training until the puppy grows older. But giving a puppy free rein, rewarding inappropriate behavior, and allowing a puppy to have his way, rather than doing what you want and need him to do, can lead to spoiling and behavior problems down the road. An adult dog’s behavior is rooted in puppyhood. Sincere but unknowing owners may inadvertently encourage behaviors that result in an ill-behaved, “spoiled” adult dog.
7 Clues That Your Dog May Be Becoming Spoiled
• Refuses to eat his or her kibble, wants to play games with food
• Pushes, knocks into you, or otherwise invades your personal space
• Takes everything he wants without asking
• Uses your furniture as his own jungle gym
• Barks or whines to get picked up, petted, played with, walked, or fed
• Obeys only when he sees treats
• Yanks you down the street or refuses to follow on walks
The Following is Taken From: Mistakes Made Early can Reap Behavior Problems Down the Road, By: Lynn M. Hayner
Sophia Yin, D.V.M., M.S., of Davis, Calif., veterinarian, applied animal behaviorist, and author of Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to start your Puppy Off Right (Cattle Dog Publishing, 2011).
What exactly is a spoiled dog?
“A spoiled dog takes (things) without asking, pushes his owners around, and demands attention” Yin says. “Such behavior can be downright obnoxious, and even for those owners willing to tolerate the behavior, the end result is the same: Spoiling a puppy often results in an unhappy, stressed, anxious dog, or who is a picky eater.”
To avoid spoiling your puppy, start training both in structured classes and at home as soon as possible. “Many owners seem to think they should ‘let a puppy be a puppy’ and wait on training. “But whether owners are intentionally or unintentionally training a puppy, a puppy is learning how to act every minute of the day; the owners might as well be intentional and aware about what they are teaching them.”
Adding enhancers to your dog’s food such as table scraps, and people food because you feel there not eating it as well or as fast as you would like them to is usually a big mistake. (Let your dog determine his own eating habits). Like people all dogs are different. Once starting this it may be very hard to stop. So it would be best not to start enhancing their food at all.
When, you first pick up your puppy best thing to do is to determine what food he currently has been on from the breeder. Then determine the quality of the product by analyzing the ingredient label of the food. (Some breeders will use lower quality commercial foods to keep their costs down when feeding a litter of puppies). After selecting a quality food that fits your dogs size and breed, try getting samples from your local feed store to make sure your dog will eat it before buying a bag. Once you know your dog will eat a certain food, continue feeding that type of food without changing. A dog can go many years on the same food without changing as long as it’s a good quality. Dogs don’t need a constant variety of foods like humans do. It’s better to use a variety of high quality treats then to change foods on a regular basis.
*Good quality dog foods WILL NOT contain corn, soy, wheat, or by-products*
Focus on the positive
Rather than teaching a new pup what to do, many owners wait for him to slip up and then react. For example, rather than proactively teaching puppies to chew on appropriate toys or trade objects for food, owners chase or yell at a puppy for picking up prohibited object.
Along with over focusing on correcting “bad” behavior, Yin explains that most owners spend 80% of their time inadvertently rewarding the pup’s unwanted behavior, and then spend the rest of their time punishing those very behaviors they had been accidentally rewarding.
For instance, an owner may pet a puppy that nudges his arm or pokes him with his nose for attention. The same pup will be confused when the owner yells at him for jumping on him for attention. To the pup, the jumping behavior is simply an excited extension of the same pushy physical behavior the owner previously rewarded.
Yin recommends owners focus on training a simple command, such as sit, rather than waiting to correct a jumpy or pushy pup. “Even reacting to the puppy’s jumping may inadvertently encourage him, because he was demanding attention and got it even if the attention was negative,” says Katherine Albro Houpt, VMD, Ph.D., of the Animal Behavior Consultants of Northern Michigan in Gaylord, MIch. She recommends that owners discourage jumping by backing away, turning away, and ignoring puppies that jump.
Timing is everything
Another common mistake involves timing, especially not responding quickly enough. “The window for shaping specific behavior is the time it takes for a pencil to drop from your hand to the floor, which is about half a second,” Houpt says. “Trying to correct a puppy outside of that time period can lead to a fearful, confused dog.”
Mistimed owner actions may also lead to an inadvertent reward for unwanted behavior. For instance, while many owners realize they shouldn’t take a crying puppy out of his crate or he will certainly learn to cry again. If owners let the pup out simply as he takes a breath or break from crying but when he’s still in a whining mindset, they accidentally reward the crying. Owners should wait until the pup is calm and quiet before responding. “Even more importantly, owners should help the pup learn to love the crate by giving him food and special toys in it,” Yin says.
Puppies need to learn that they have to work for everything and that nothing in life is free. For example, a pup can learn to ask permission with a Sit before going outside. “Similarly, food shouldn’t be free. If the owner is giving the dog his meal for free instead of using the pieces of kibble as rewards, he’s wasting his reinforcers.
Although food rewards can help shape a puppy’s behavior owners shouldn’t overdo high-calorie treats. Think of a treat as a flash of flavor. By varying when they reward, and by how much, owners can get a much improved response. Puppies can typically be weaned from treat rewards for a specific behavior in just a few sessions, but many owners continue using the same number of treats and fail to expect more from the pup with each session. Throughout the dog’s life, the ultimate reward will be affection, praise, and time spent with his owner. “A puppy who isn’t weaned from treat rewards may grow up only behaving when he sees treats, “Yin cautions.
All puppies benefit from socialization, the process of getting them comfortable around and unafraid of people, other animals, sights, and sounds. Owners can make mistakes, however, by either overprotecting and/or pushing a puppy into interactions.
“A pup hiding under a chair at puppy class will likely come out on his accord, “Houpt explains. “Owners may inadvertently contribute to the pup’s fearfulness by forcing him to interact.” In many cases, cautious or shy puppies benefit from “watch me” exercises. Puppies need something else to do when feeling unsure or scared in new situations, Houpt says.
A puppy typically joins his human family curious and yet unsure about his environment. Owners who teach positive behavior such as Sits, Downs, Watch-mes, and loose-leash walking can ease the puppy’s transition and set the stage for a well-behaved adult dog.
“Rewarding appropriate behavior when you see it, such as the puppy sitting calmly next to you,” Yin says. “While designated teaching periods are beneficial, remember that every interaction is a training session; take advantage of each of them.”