Dealing with Your Dog’s Bad Behavior

All dogs have at least one behavior that can get under your skin and make you crazy. Whether it’s that they beg for table scraps or drink from the toilet, there are ways you can stop the behavior without getting rid of the dog. There are two main schools of thought for extinguishing bad behavior.
dog bad behavior
Two main approaches for curbing the bad behavior include the "Alpha" method and the "positive training" method. *Photo Credit:

Leader of the Pack

The first method is the Dog Whisperer approach advocated by Cesar Milan. In this method, all of your efforts go toward establishing yourself as the alpha in your relationship with your dog. Once the dog learns that he or she is subservient to you, good behavior is just a reprimand away. While this approach does work with most dogs, it can make some dogs dig in their heels and refuse to acquiesce to you simply because it is against their nature. Let’s face it: everyone (including your dog) wants to be at the top of the ladder.

Positive Training

The second style of dealing with your dog’s bad behavior is to use positive training. In this method, you ignore (as much as possible) the bad behavior and reward the good behavior. Dogs want to be the center of attention, so this method works well, although it may take a little longer than establishing yourself as the alpha dog. The basic process is this: you observe your dog doing something he or she shouldn’t so you simply re-direct the animal to an acceptable activity, then reward with love, attention, and even treats. A few examples will show you how this can work.

Drinking from the toilet

Of course, the easiest way to stop this is to simply close the toilet lid or the bathroom door, but we’ll assume you have kids (or a spouse!) who can’t remember to do this. To train your dog using positive rewards, you will need consistency and perseverance. Every time you see your dog drinking from the toilet, the idea is to re-direct him or her to the water dish. Putting an extra water dish in the bathroom will help you immensely.

dog bad behavior
Every time you see your dog drinking from the toilet, the idea is to re-direct him or her to the water dish.

When you come upon your dog with his or her head in the toilet, simply take them by the collar and lead them to the appropriate dish. As soon as the dog takes even one lap at the dish, you praise them as if they’ve been awarded the Nobel Prize. Pet the dog, and verbalize what a good dog he or she is. You can also use small treats or someplay time with a tennis ball after the dog finished drinking.

Remember that dogs are capable of learning at least 20 words, so you might make “dish” one of the words by saying “Good dish drinking!” Your dog will eventually come to realize that drinking from the appropriate dish is a good way to get attention and maybe even a treat or a little extra play time. Make sure you pay attention so that when the dog gets a drink from the dish first (without going to the toilet at all) you still give the reward. After your dog has this mastered, you will begin to phase out the rewards so that you only offer them sporadically to keep the behavior reinforced.

Begging for table scraps

The best way to keep a dog from begging for table scraps is to simply never, ever feed the dog from the table. However, you may have already made the mistake of feeding the dog from your plate, so you may need to develop another means of developing the desired behavior. First of all, it’s important to STOP everyone in your home from giving the dog scraps at the table. If anyone continues to do this, the dog will simply become confused. Try not to make eye contact with the dog during your meals. If possible, put up a baby gate to keep the dog away from the table.

If the dog barks or paws at you, you should ignore as much as you can, but redirect if necessary by providing something for the dog to do. You may want to put some kibble into an interactive toy such as the Kong Wobbler to keep your dog busy while you eat.

If the dog goes for 5 minutes without begging, you might step away from the table and put a small treat in his or her dish as a reward and tell the dog how proud you are of him or her. Once five minutes is mastered, move on to ten minutes, and so on until your dog is able to leave you alone for the whole meal. If you want your dog to have the last few bites of your food, put the food in the dog’s bowl at the end of your meal. Remember that many human foods are toxic to dogs so this isn’t always the best idea, but I know some of us have a hard time breaking that habit of feeding the dog whatever we eat. Just make sure not to do it from the table if you are trying to break the dog of a begging habit.


First of all, remember that all puppies chew – it’s part of teething. The key here is to get them to chew on their stuff instead of yours. This is simply a game of substitution. Every time your dog chews on a shoe or an electrical cord or some other inappropriate object, you simply take it away and give them a dog toy in return. Once they chew on the toy, you praise, reward, and play with the dog to reinforce the lesson.

dog bad behavior
First of all, remember that all puppies chew – it’s part of teething.

Clicker training

Many dog trainers advocate the use of a clicker to signal your dog that they are doing the correct thing. The clicker is then followed by a reward, with the idea that the dog will begin to associate the sound of the clicker with a treat or extra play time or praise. There is certainly no harm in this approach, but it isn’t really necessary. Your dog is capable of learning many different skills and associating each of them with your reward system, independent of hearing the clicking sound for each different behavior.

A word about using treats as rewards

Keep in mind that dogs have every bit as much of a problem with obesity as we humans do. If you will be using treats as a reward, make sure you cut down on meal portion sizes to keep your dog from gaining weight. You want to be able to see a definite waistline when you look down at your dog from above, and you should be able to at least feel his or her ribs through the fur. In some breeds, you should even be able to see the ribs.

Consistency, consistency, consistency!

No matter which behavior you are dealing with or which training method you choose to use, the key to getting good results is to remain consistent. Your dog needs to know that no matter who is home with him or her, the rules remain the same, so training must involve the entire family. And the rules need to remain the same day and night, so if you can’t be persuaded to get out of bed to correct your dog, you may want to lock the animal in a crate at night to prevent even the temptation of mis-behaving.

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