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Nipping things in the bud (bad dog behaviours)

Posted on 19th August 2022

A beagle dog leaning on a dining table and eating the tail of a battered fish

If I had a pound.........

The phrase "I just need to nip it in the bud" drives me mad

Now, I may be wrong, but to me it implies that something unwanted just needs to be stopped, without any consideration of why your dog may be misbehaving in the first place.

You see, when we humans notice unwanted behaviours in our dogs, it is often because they have become problematic for us. Yet, its likely our dogs have been trying to tell us something is wrong.


1. Human Concepts

Dogs work on safe/unsafe, threat/no threat, feels good/feels bad.

Dogs don't do wrong or right, it's a human concept. And, what is wrong to you may not be wrong to your neighbour. For example, my mum was brought up with the belief that living together is wrong; yet, here I am, living happily with Dave and the dogs "in sin". Oops!!


2. Emotional Dog Responses

Behaviour is driven by an emotional response so when we see something such as a dog:

  • snapping
  • growling
  • lunging
  • jumping up
  • biting or more

there is always an emotion and a motivation behind this.


3. Memories (all alone in the moonlight)

We can't nip it in the bud because, with each behavioural response, a dog has has had a learning experience. This activates chemicals in the brain for both the short term and the long term memory centres. As a result, dogs have a coping mechanism or have learned how to gain access to something.


4. That Breed Thing Again

Other dog behaviours can be breed specific.

Take the Collie who chases a car at around 6 months old. - this is not a new behaviour, it is a naturally reoccurring behaviour. Collie's have the wrong target, usually because they are known to not have an appropriate grasp on chasing things and stopping movement.


5. Am I wrong?

A few months ago, 3 Lickimats with food on were on the side in my kitchen. Ghillie found them and scoffed the lot. Uh oh!

Immediately, what Dave and I knew was that he was very likely to repeat the behaviour of jumping up on the side and stealing stuff because eating three dog breakfasts was highly tempting!

So, we needed to nip it in the bud.

What did we do? We used control and management plus alternative behaviour reinforcement by:

  • removed all food from the side immediately
  • made sure he was out of the kitchen when we ate there
  • rewarded him when he had 4 paws on the kitchen floor

Jumping on the side has happened again.


If you want to "nip it in the bud" and prevent another reputation of negative dog behaviour immediately, or if you can't (or haven't) got help from a dog trainer or dog behaviourist. This is what my inbox is for.

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