Ok, to say that you may have caused the behaviors is a little bit dramatic, but there are definitely situations we humans inadvertently create, encourage, and reward behaviors that we don't actually like or want to see! Those are the behaviors I'm talking about today!
Below are six behaviors that folks routinely ask for help with, but that they may have had a hand in creating...
This is a big one! A lot of dogs jump - when they're excited, on guests, on their human family, when playing with other dogs, etc. We're looking specifically at the jumping on humans piece here and the simple fact is that SO many people reward a dog for jumping:
Guests - especially the family member who comes in with an excited, "Ohmygosh, HI ROVER! HOW ARE YOU, YOU CUTIE PIE!?"
Strangers who want to say Hi to your cute puppy - "Oh, it's fine; I love dogs!" (Morgan Freeman narrator: "It was, in fact, not fine to the dog's humans.")
Immediate family members encourage it as part of play and greetings and rile the dog up to the point of jumping
If it's a behavior you're not a fan of, there are likely still people in your dog's life (you may be one of them), who are giving pets, praise, and boatloads of attention for your dog jumping on them. And, since it is so effective at getting them what they want, your dog is very likely to continue jumping!
Most of us don't like the yard with a giant hole in it or with little holes started all over like some kind of gopher colony, but...dogs dig. Yes, digging is a normal and natural behavior and it can serve a variety of purposes that have nothing to do with us. BUT, some digging can be a result of two factors we have lots of control over: boredom and lack of supervision. If your dog is left outside - fenced-in yard, on a tie-out, or with an electronic fence - unattended and they find themselves bored...they're going to find a way to not be bored. Landscaping may just fit the bill, giving your dog something to do, as well as a cool place to lay and they may even find something in the process!
If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they didn't want their dog to be begging (and have, therefore, never given "human" food or fed from the table, etc.)....I'd have a few extra dollars in my pocket, at least! Begging behaviors, such as whining, jumping, barking, placing the head in the lap, nudging the elbow, and hanging out under the table during meals are the direct result of a few things: Dogs like food (I mean, we all do - we all have to eat) and your dog knows there's food on the table, the counter, your lap, etc. AND they're willing to try a lot of things to get that food (and keep trying). Some - possibly even minor - begging behavior was probably rewarded in some way and your dog is trying really hard to figure out which of the above behaviors will pay off.
Kids drop food, which can have your doggo circling the table and high chair like a shark that has smelled blood. And your dad, father-in-law, brother, mom, sister, partner, spouse, etc. may be straight up feeding the dog under the table or because they looked cute while giving. Pair these scenarios with a dog that doesn't know what you may want them to be doing instead of begging behaviors and you've got a great recipe for a dog that begs!
Puppies are cute and fluffy and fun to play with! Aside from their teeth, they can be pretty harmless and even those can be easy to avoid when you stand up or walk away or whatever. It is tempting when they're small and adorable to get them all riled up, rough-housing, wrestling, chasing, and all that; but, this type of play may lead your puppy into thinking that is how you play with humans! Unfortunately, though, that type of play is much less cute when they're an adult with adult dog teeth and they've doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled in size - it may be even less cute when it's with your 2 year old neighbor or grandkid!
Similar to digging, there are many reasons for why a dog might be barking; by no means am I suggesting that humans cause all the barking. BUT, there are a few situations where you could be causing the behavior or, at the very least, creating the situations where barking is feasible:
Your dog has full and free access to all the windows that face the sidewalk out front of the house and you do not block off access in any way or, worse, you "bark back" at your dog - not only providing opportunity to perform the behavior, but providing attention (a possible reward) for the behavior.
Your dog barks at you for something - play, food, attention, etc. - and you give in "just to shut them up." Eeep! The barking has just been rewarded!
Your dog barks at passerby, critters, a leaf blowing through the air, etc. when they're outside in the yard. Much like digging, if they're out there unsupervised, there's a whole lot of opportunity to develop habits you're not a fan of, such as barking!
Your dog barks at other dogs, people, trucks, bikes, etc. on walks or in public and you're making your dog sit, trying to make them stay in place, or trying to make them look at you instead of the other thing - and, even more importantly, instead of giving you and your dog some extra space between you and the thing.
In a lot of cases, where barking is concerned, if you're not working to prevent it or manage your dog's environment, you're part of the problem!
Pulling on Leash
This one might be a tough pill to swallow for some folks, but your dog might be pulling because of you. Dogs aren't born wearing equipment and knowing how to walk on a leash - or how you might like them to walk on a leash, that is! When outside, dogs simply have different priorities than humans most of the time; they want to sniff, explore, chase critters, maybe go greet other dogs and people, etc. They may not be as interested in getting their steps in as you are or whatever you're thinking you'll accomplish on a walk.
There are a few ways we can successfully create a frustrating walk with our SideKicks:
Have unclear expectations; if your dog doesn't know what you like or what you want, they can't do it (and won't have any motivation to do it).
Offer little or no motivation to do what you want. Why would your dog care about you or what you want to do on a walk? If you have nothing to offer or are not as much fun as other options, it's unlikely they'll choose you.
Pull back or shorten the leash. Not only is this a workout for your arms, but the leash is a safety device - not a communication device. Pulling back on the leash or tightening it up to limit your dog's options serves to teach your dog that they need to pull back to get more of that leash, pull harder to get to what they want to get to, or they need to take advantage of all the other options when they have the leash available to them and until you pull them back.
If any of the above behaviors ring a bell with you or feel like things you may be encouraging (or you have family members encouraging these behaviors), we can help! The first step is often awareness, though - you can't fix, change, or work on things you didn't know you were doing!