Most pet owners are definitely guilty of indulging their dog when they shouldn’t! Even those who try to keep a strict routine for training will let their dogs have a few treats. There isn’t anything wrong with this, but it can go too far! Sometimes our pets can end up so pampered, that we’ve found we’ve spoilt them entirely! Whether you’re bringing home a new puppy or just noticed a change in behavior from your dog, a lot of people can wonder how they’ve ended up spoiling their dog.
If this is a fate you want to avoid, you have to stay alert. The key to avoiding spoiling your dog is understanding the difference between treating a dog nicely and spoiling them. Spoiling them isn’t just getting them a lot of toys and treats! It mainly applies to the way we treat our dogs and the boundaries we set. A spoilt dog will have no concept of boundaries and what they are or aren’t allowed to do. Worse still, they’ll expect things that should be reward to be given to them just for showing up and looking cute! This can lead to seriously badly-behaved puppies.
If you want to avoid spoiling your dog, you need to think about what boundaries you’re going to set. You also need to think about what is a reward for your pet, and what is routine. You can reward your pet a lot and not spoil them. Teaching your dog good manners isn’t all discipline, it can be a good experience for both of you.
Is Your Dog Spoilt?
Different behavior will count as spoilt to different pet owners. A good example is the use of human furniture! Some dog owners don’t allow their pets free roam over sofas or chairs as others do. To them, a dog that climbs up on furniture can be seen as spoilt since it crosses the boundaries they expect from a pet. However, to others, this is perfectly normal.
Spoiling a dog doesn’t just mean being nice to them. Spoiling a dog is when they expect to receive food, or people’s food, or whatever else is a special treat for them as a regular occurrence. This leads to rude behavior. A spoilt dog will expect these things for nothing and become frustrated when they don’t get them. Whereas other dogs might still sit on the sofa and be treated to some home-cooked food, they won’t expect anything for no reason.
If you want to make sure your dog can be treated nicely without becoming spoilt, there are key things you can do.
Obedience training is vital for any new dog. However, it particularly helps to teach your pet manners. If you’re bringing home a new puppy, then you need to start training once they are old enough. Keeping on top of your pet’s obedience training is going to be key to teaching them manners and ensuring that they don’t become spoilt.
Regular obedience training will teach your dog that a treat comes with as a reward for good behavior. It should also teach them that they can’t expect a reward for just anything. If a dog knows that responding to training will get them treats, they will respond to their training.
Reward Your Dog
Not spoiling your pet doesn’t mean you can’t ever give them a reward or treat. However, it does mean thinking through just what you’re rewarding your pet for. You don’t have to be stingy with rewards, but you can’t just hand them out.
You should make sure that you’re only rewarding your dog for good behavior. When they behave well, give them praise or attention or a treat. This reinforces that good manners get them what they want. If you don’t reward them, they might begin to misbehave. However, you need to make sure that your rewards are reinforcing positives and not bad behavior.
Reinforcing a naughty dog with a treat is how bad habits form. A dog will learn that they are given a treat or praise or attention as a reward for acting out and this will lead to them repeating the bad behavior to get more of what they want.
Set Clear Rules and Boundaries
If you want to avoid spoiling your dog, you need to make sure they know what behavior is wrong or right. Rewarding them for doing things right and training them helps you establish these boundaries. To keep them in place you need to be consistent.
This might be easier said than done. Being consistent means not allowing them to get away with certain behavior because of special circumstances. If you don’t want your dog climbing on things with messy paws, they need to be taught to consistently wait after a walk for the all-clear. This will prevent them from spreading mud all over your home. However, you have to reinforce this routine with every walk, not just the messy ones.
You also need to make sure everyone is consistent with this. Anyone who is spending time with your dog needs to be reinforcing your rules and making sure your dog isn’t rewarded for bad behavior. Allowing anyone to break these conventions is going to undercut the training you’ve been doing.
Feeding and Food Manners
An important part of not spoiling your dog is not indulging them in bad eating habits. They aren’t allowed food from a person’s plate, even as a treat. This just reinforces that this food is up for grabs to them! They should be eating their own healthy food, not something cooked for a human’s pallet.
Setting clear rules also applies to meals. If your pet gets two meals a day, you need to make sure that it is a consistent two. Otherwise, they may see extra food as a reward when it is given to them, or act out to try and get more food.
Since dogs are quite motivated by food, teaching them good manners when it comes to eating is really important to avoid spoiling your dog.
Puppies love to play and chew, but it needs to be on their own toys. A spoilt dog might see everything in the house as their potential toy. This can lead to the destruction of shoes and anything else you might leave laying around. Much like food, the key to avoiding spoiling them in playtime is to set clear rules and boundaries for your pet.
A dog should never be rewarded for playing with something that isn’t their own toy. Instead, encourage them to play in a way you’d like them to. Play with them, and make sure they’re interested in a toy. This encourages play in the right setting. However, you shouldn’t allow them to make demands of you.
If a dog is pestering you to play, it might be because they’re bored. However, doing this too many times will teach your dog that they control your schedule. They will begin to think that they can demand you play with them whenever they want. This type of behavior has to be discouraged if you want to avoid spoiling your dog.
Can You Unspoil a Dog?
If your dog has become spoiled because of some years of indulging him or her, all is not lost! A dog can be re-taught manners, even if they’ve become quite badly behaved. If you want to do this though, you need to be willing to put some work in.
Unspoiling a dog is going to take some time and consistency. You’re also going to have to put up with your pet sulking throughout this training. After all, you’re trying to teach them that they can’t have everything that they want anymore. They’re unlikely to take this news well!
Unspoiling your dog requires you to do all of the same things that you would with a young puppy. However, this time you’re going to be fighting against their years of experience getting what they want. It might take your dog a while to learn that they will no longer be permitted to beg for food. However, with some patience, they will get there.
Make sure that you respond to any behavior that is wrong with a firm ‘No’. You also need to respond well to positives. Over-encourage your dog when they start behaving themselves properly. Be sure to give them a treat and a lot of praise. Even if they sulk for a while when they initially don’t get what they want, consistency will pay off. After a while, your dog to going to learn that the only way to get what they want is to behave the way you want them to. You might feel bad through this process for being stricter to your dog, but it is for the best. The longer you leave it before disciplining them, the worse it is going to get.
Avoiding Spoiling Your Dog Can Be Fun for Them
Avoiding spoiling a dog doesn’t mean having to be really strict about every aspect of their life. If you do it right, it can mean handing out lots of treats and praise to your pet. However, the key thing is to do this to reward the right behaviors. After a while of doing this, every dog is going to realize that they get what they want when they behave well, not when they misbehave.
The process may take a while, especially with an older or adopted dog. It might be a bit of work and you may feel bad for disciplining your dog. However, the end result is going to be a lot more positive. Training can be a fun exercise for you and your pet. Avoiding spoiling your dog doesn’t mean you have to be strict with them, just that you have to reward them for doing things right.