Unspoiling your dog requires both obedience and behavioral retraining. It can be a challenging process, especially for an older dog set in his ways, but the results can be highly rewarding for both dog and owner.
Spoiled vs. Poorly Trained
There’s a difference between a pampered pooch and a poorly trained dog who has been allowed to get away with whatever he wants with no repercussions. If you spoil your dog with love and attention, buy him toys and clothes and have him sleeping in a bed fit for a king, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you spoil your dog by allowing him to jump on guests, eat from your plate at the table and go to the bathroom whenever he wants, he’s spoiled in a bad way, and you both would benefit from retraining.
How Dogs Get Spoiled
Dogs actually enjoy following your commands and doing what you expect, it’s part of their ingrained pack mentality. Allowing your dog to live a life free of rules and expectations isn’t being nice or doing him a favor, it’s creating a confusing environment for him. Dogs become spoiled when they aren’t properly trained, or when training isn’t enforced regularly enough for it to stick. This may be due to time constraints, a lack of enthusiasm for a pet or in not understanding the purpose of formal training.
How to Start Unspoiling
Pick a time when you can devote yourself to your dog’s retraining, ideally a long weekend where you can work within him consistently. Depending on how badly spoiled your dog is, you may need to leash him and start with basic commands such as sit, stay, down and come. You also may need to retrain him on bathroom habits, much like housebreaking a new puppy. Never lose your temper, and continually issue positive reinforcement when your pup does what you ask. Treats and praise will let him know he’s on the right track.
Unspoiling the Delicate Areas
Spoiled dogs often eat from their owner’s laps, sleep on their owner’s beds and have full access to household furniture. If these are the areas you’re looking to regain control of, be prepared for initial resistance. Your dog thinks he’s on even footing with the humans in his home and will require some coaxing to get back to his appropriate rank in the pack.
Get your dog his own comfortable bed and fill it with his favorite toys. When it’s bedtime, put him in his own spot and praise him for staying put. If he tries to jump into bed with you, put him back, without fail, and issue a command, such as “bed,” or “nighttime.” Reward him staying put with a high-value treat.
Stop feeding your pup from the table, and don’t allow him to beg. One option is to feed him at the same time you eat, but in a separate room, or give him a favorite chew toy when you sit down at the table. Jumping, whining and begging require a consistent, “no” or, “down” command. Crate training can be useful for establishing better dining habits, especially if the crate is full of toys and playthings and is seen as a treat rather than a punishment.
Handle a no-furniture policy in the same way you handle the no-bed directive. Provide a comfy spot on the floor and sit near the place and play with your pup. Offer treats when he goes to his spot and when he gets on furniture, promptly remove him and issue a command such as, “off.” Depending on how spoiled your pooch is, you may need to place plastic floor runners on furniture, nubby side up, for a short period, as a deterrent.
Be an Enforcer
Once you get new rules in place, stick by them and make sure other household members abide by your directives as well. Back-sliding will only make it more confusing on your pup, and tougher to undo.
Continue to give your dog lots of love and attention as you go through the retraining process. It may be confusing for him, and he needs to know he’s still a valued member of the pack, even if his standing has changed.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.