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Question
My husband and I are in desperate need of advise on how to keep our dog from constantly disobeying us. She is a 5 year old spayed female lab/beagle mix. This problem has been going on pretty much since we brought her home when she was 8 weeks old. She sneaks around the house constantly looking for trouble. We have to keep our trash locked up or else she will get into it. We have to gate the stairs or else she goes up stairs and sleeps in our bed even though she has multiple beds of her own. She will steal food off counters , tables , from my kids any place she possible can. She will even eat dirty diapers if she can get ahold of them. I can't turn my back on her for a second with out her doing something she shouldn't and she knows she is being bad. When I catch her misbehaving she shrinks down and acts submissive. We have tried every we can think of to stop this behavior but nothing has worked. Its gotten bad enough that my husband wants to get rid of her. I really don't want to give her away but I'm getting frustrated with her as well. Any advise would be very much appreciated.

Answer
Hi Heather.  I feel your frustration just from reading the description of your issues!  Dogs are like kids in that you must first teach them what TO do before you can expect them to behave properly, or scold them when they are wrong.  You can't stop a dog from (mis)behaving until you've taught them an alternative behavior.  No dog deliberately misbehaves.  Dogs are born to do what works for them (not what necessarily works for us.)  

Your dog sounds like she's very smart and creative - and constantly looking for ways to amuse herself.  Here are some ideas for redirecting that drive to get into things:

Feed all meals from food dispensing puzzle toys.  Busy dogs should always be working for their food.  Here are some sites with great toys:  www.petexpertise.com/barbgadola and www.kyjen.com.  Kongs are another great food challenge toy.  Take her dog food, fill an appropriately sized Kong, wet the food a bit, top with peanut butter to close the big hole and freeze.

Since your dog is a mix of 2 breeds that love to use their noses, I would make her find her food each meal.  Take the puzzle toy or Kong and hide it in a different place in the house or yard each day.  Teach her the cue "find it", which means that she needs to use her sense of smell to find her meal.  Make it easy at first, then gradually increase the difficulty.

Exercise is vital for active dogs.  She should be getting a walk off the property each day to experience all the sights, sounds, and smells of the neighborhood.  If she's not good walking on leash, look into the New Freedom Harness (on the Pet Expertise link above).  If she plays well with other dogs, how about a day or two a week at a local doggie day care?  Good play with other dogs will tire her out that day and most often will carry over to the next day as well.  

Household management is also going to be critical to helping your dog make good choices instead of bad ones.  Keep food off counters and out of the dog's reach.  Even dog trainers keep their trash locked up, so you're doing great with that!  

Make the right behavior easier than the wrong behavior.  Set the dog up to succeed, not fail.  Watch for times when she IS being good and notice and reward it!  Carry dog treats in your pocket and catch her doing something you like (sitting politely, relaxing on her dog bed, making eye contact without demanding attention) 50 times a day.  Once you start to reward these good behaviors, she'll start to offer them more and more - guaranteed!

Your dog would also benefit from a basic manners class to learn how to sit/stay and self-control.  The best places find a good trainer or class:

http://www.karenpryoracademy.com/find-a-trainer
http://positively.com/dog-training/trainersearch/
http://www.ccpdt.org/
http://www.apdt.com/petowners/ts/default.aspx
http://iaabc.org/consultants

Please let me know if you have questions about anything I've recommended or need clarification on a particular issue.  Good luck!

Dog Training

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Barb Gadola, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP

Expertise

I can answer questions related to problem dog behaviors, teaching polite manners, puppy raising, and any type of training-related issues. My website page, www.DistinctiveDogTraining.com/resources offers a wealth of information on training and behavior issues as well.

Experience

I've been training dogs since 1989 and own and operate Distinctive Dog Training LLC in Keller TX. I specialize in providing practical and positive solutions for families through personalized training in their home.

Organizations
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Victoria Stilwell Positively! Licensed Trainer
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
Truly Dog Friendly Coalition

Education/Credentials
BS in Education
Graduate work in Behavioral Psychology
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Training Program
Certified Professional Dog Trainer

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