My Dog is Reverting Back to Bad Habits: Why and How To Correct a Dog’s Bad Behavior

November 15, 2022 / Behavior / By: Lilianna Parker

breaking and preventing dog behavioral problems

While rewarding most of the time, dog ownership can come with some trials and tribulations. The good news is that most behavioral issues can be easily remedied and prevented once you know what to do, and you are definitely not alone in this endeavor.

Most of the time behavioral issues stem from a dog developing bad habits that eventually become unmanageable or bothersome. Additionally, dogs that are under-exercised and not mentally stimulated also tend to engage in behaviors that most dog owners consider to be naughty.

Here we will be explaining what causes the six most common undesirable behaviors in dogs. We will also explain everything you need to know about stopping these problem behaviors and preventing them from occurring in the future.

Let’s dive straight in!

Why Is My Dog Misbehaving All of a Sudden?

It can be understandably worrisome if your dog is suddenly misbehaving, especially if they never used to do that bad behavior before.

Most of the time a sudden onset of unusual problematic behavior in dogs is brought on by stress or anxiety.

This stress could potentially include changes in routine or environment such as moving house or welcoming a new member of the family.

Additionally, traumatic events and being in pain can also cause a dog to develop newfound anxiety, and problematic behavior often follows suit.

The good news is that most dogs get used to changes in their environment fairly quickly, so the sudden onset of problematic behavior usually resolves with some extra training and time.

Similarly, dogs experiencing pain should go back to normal once they have received treatment and their pain has subsided.

The best course of action for dogs who have experienced trauma is through specialized desensitization and counter-conditioning training. This method has also been shown to help dogs with generalized anxiety as well.

6 Common Dog Bad Habits You Need to Know (And How to Break and Prevent Them)

Not all behavioral problems in dogs are developed out of the blue, though. Many times behaviors that were once cute in a tiny puppy become bothersome as they grow into a large, adult dog. Sometimes we can also teach our dog to engage in bad behaviors accidentally.

No matter what the cause of your dog’s undesirable behavior may be, we are going to be explaining what you can do to help reduce it.

Here are the six common bad habits that you need to know about and how to break the habit. We will even be explaining how you can prevent these bad habits from occurring in the future!

Dog Bad Habit Number 1: Jumping on People 

how to stop your dog from jumping on people

Many dogs will develop the bad habit of jumping on people. For small dogs, this is usually not a huge issue, but large dogs jumping on people can potentially be dangerous. This is especially true if they are jumping on children or elderly people. 

Luckily, jumping is a fairly easy bad habit to break with time, repetition, and persistence.

How Can You Stop Your Dog From Jumping on People?

The best way to stop your dog from jumping on people is to teach them to sit and stay when greeting others. After all, a dog cannot physically sit and jump at the same time.

Although the concept behind this remedy is simple, it will take a lot of persistence and practice. This is because dogs usually enjoy jumping up to greet people, which makes it a very naturally rewarding experience for them.

Here is how you can teach your dog to sit and stay when greeting others.

Teaching Your Dog to Sit and Stay During Greetings

Step 1: Teach Your Dog to Sit and Stay

You will first need to teach your dog to sit and stay on command. After all, they will need to know what sit and stay means when you tell them to do it.

Step 2: Introduce Sit and Stay During Greetings

Once your dog knows how to sit and stay, you can start using it practically during greetings with other people. To start out it is best to have someone that your dog is familiar with, and it is also important to have your dog on a leash.

This will give you more control over the situation and make the process easier at first.

Next, put your dog into a sit and stay, and have the other person approach the two of you. If your dog breaks out of the sit-stay, then you should start over and try the process again.

The key here is that your dog only gets the reward of greeting the other person when they are still sitting down. You will most likely need to be patient, as this usually takes at least several tries before being successful.

Step 3: Practice

You will likely need to practice this with your dog many times, as jumping on people can often be a tough habit for dogs to break. When you practice this for every greeting then most dogs will quickly learn that they must sit if they want to greet other people.

Be persistent!

Not following this rule for every greeting can quickly make dogs confused and lead them to revert back to their old jumping habit.

How Can You Prevent Your Dog From Jumping on People?

The best way that you can prevent your dog from developing the habit of jumping on people is to not allow it in the first place.

Not allowing your dog to greet others when they jump up will ultimately train them not to do it. You can do this by instructing people to ignore your puppy when they jump up and only give them attention when all four of their paws are on the ground.

This is especially important for puppies that will grow up to be large dogs.

Having a strong sit and stay command already set in stone can be helpful as well.

Dog Bad Habit Number 2: Excessive Barking

Barking chihuahua

Excessive barking in dogs can quickly become bothersome for both you and your neighbors. As a result, many pet parents really feel the pressure to get this issue resolved quickly.

Excessive barking can potentially be caused by many different things. However, most of the time separation anxiety, reactivity, or alert barking is the cause.

Here we will be explaining what you can do to stop excessive barking depending on what is causing it to happen.

How Can You Stop Excessive Barking in Dogs?

Stopping Excessive Barking Caused by Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem in dogs, especially in those who were adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While this increase in separation anxiety in dogs is understandable, excessive barking caused by this issue can be pretty problematic, especially with neighbors close by.

The best way to stop excessive barking that is caused by separation anxiety is through specialized desensitization training.

This type of training can sometimes be tricky, so you may also benefit from speaking with a qualified dog trainer or animal behaviorist when tackling this issue. Of course, increasing things like exercise and mental stimulation can often help dogs with separation anxiety as well.

Stopping Excessive Barking Caused by Reactivity

Reactivity can cause dogs to bark excessively at people and other dogs, especially when out on walks. Like separation anxiety, specialized desensitization training seems to be the best method for helping reactive dogs.

Stopping Excessive Barking Caused by Alert Barking

Many dogs will alert their owners when someone or something is around by barking.

However, sometimes dogs do not know when to stop. In these cases teaching your dog the quiet cue can really help.

Additionally, blocking access to your dog’s view of heavily trafficked areas outside of your home can help reduce this type of barking as well.

Below is a great video about teaching your dog the quiet cue.

How Can You Prevent Your Dog From Developing a Barking Habit?

The best way to prevent excessive barking in dogs is to properly condition your dog to being alone and socialize them with a variety of situations and environments.

This will make your dog much less likely to develop separation anxiety or reactivity to other people and dogs.

Similarly, teaching your dog to stop barking on cue early on can help prevent the bad habit of excessive alert barking in the future.

Dog Bad Habit Number 3: Digging in the Garden

A Jack Russel beside a dug out part of the garden

Some dogs are more prone to developing a bad digging habit than others.

For example, digging in the garden tends to be a particularly bad habit among our terrier friends. This is simply because they were originally bred to catch vermin that hide in the ground such as moles.

Here is how you can stop your dog from digging up your garden and prevent the behavior altogether.

If you own a dog who likes to dig and live in an apartment read about 5 great indoor enrichment ideas for dogs that like to dig here.

How Can You Stop Your Dog From Digging in the Garden?

The best way to stop a dog from digging in the garden is to block off access to areas where you do not want them to dig and provide them with another outlet.

For example, many dog owners of avid diggers will set up a digging pit for their pet that consists of sand and some of their favorite toys.

In combination with this method, it is best to either block off the areas where your dog used to dig or make digging in these areas uncomfortable for them.

You can do this by placing things like rocks or mesh above or just below the soil or building a DIY dog run.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Digging in Inappropriate Areas

Redirecting your dog to a suitable area to dig and teaching them to leave other parts of your garden alone is effective.

This is especially true if the areas that they used to dig in are now uncomfortable for them, and if they have an alternative space to dig appropriately.

The sooner that you set these boundaries with your dog, the sooner they tend to get on the same page.

We have other useful tips and tricks on boundary training in our article how to train your dog to stay in the yard.

Dog Bad Habit Number 4: Having Accidents Inside of the House

Dog having having had urinary accident

Having issues with your dog peeing on your indoor furniture is a prevalent struggle that many dog owners face. Luckily, there are several things that you can do to stop and prevent this problem from occurring.

Here is what you can do to stop your dog from having accidents inside of your home.

How Can You Stop Dogs From Having Accidents?

Get Your Dog Seen by a Vet

If your dog is suddenly having accidents out of the blue, and this is unusual for them, then this could be a sign of a medical issue such as a UTI.

This is because frequent urination is a fairly common sign of medical problems in dogs. Taking your dog to the vet will at best solve your problem, and at worse rule out a medical issue as the cause of their accidents.

Thoroughly Clean Past Accidents

Dogs will often mark areas with urine, especially if they are not spayed or neutered.

Thoroughly cleaning these areas with a cleaner that is made to remove enzymes that are present in urine can help prevent your dog from marking the same spots over and over again. 

Using a cleaner like this is very important because regular soap and water can still leave some of these enzymes behind. Unfortunately, dogs can usually still smell these enzymes if they are still present even if we can’t.

Click here to learn How To Remove Dog Poop Stains from carpet

Use a Belly Band

For male dogs that like to mark, using a belly band can greatly reduce the number of accidents that you need to clean up.

This tool works in a similar way to a cloth diaper for infants, and it covers up their lower belly so that it catches the dog’s urine. 

This will leave you with much fewer messes that you need to clean up.

Stick to a Potty Schedule

Sticking to a strict potty schedule can also help to greatly reduce the number of accidents that occur with most dogs. 

Interestingly, smaller dogs tend to need to use the bathroom more often than larger dogs do. As a result, owners of little dogs may want to let their dogs out every few hours.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Having Accidents Inside of the House

Taking the time to potty train your dog and show them where it is acceptable to use the bathroom is the best way that you can prevent accidents in the future. 

Even though doing this can be daunting to many first time dog owners, putting in the time will be well worth it and save you a lot of hassle in the future.

Dog Bad Habit Number 5: Chewing on Objects Dogs Shouldn’t Chew On

How to stop your dog from chewing

A bored or frustrated dog may take out its frustrations through chewing.

Dogs love to chew because it is a very calming and self-rewarding behavior for them. This is especially true for puppies that are still teething and adult dogs that are suffering from anxiety.

Here is how you can stop destructive chewing in dogs.

How Can You Stop Dogs From Chewing on Inappropriate Objects?

How to Stop Puppy Chewing

Replacing the object that your puppy is chewing on with an appropriate object such as a chew toy can help teach your puppy what is ok for them to chew on. 

This is especially prevalent in puppies that are teething because they have a stronger urge to chew on things than adult dogs do. Teaching this to your puppy will save you a lot of stress in the future. 

How to Stop Destructive Behavior as a Result of Anxiety

Anxiety, especially separation anxiety, can cause dogs to engage in destructive behaviors like chewing inappropriate objects.

Speaking with veterinarians and other professionals can help with stopping this. The best way to stop this type of destructive behavior is by treating the anxiety itself.

How to Prevent Your Puppy From Chewing on Your Things They Shouldn’t Be

The easiest way to prevent your puppy from chewing on things that they shouldn’t is to provide them with toys for chewing

Replacing objects like shoes with a chew toy is an effective way of teaching puppies what is acceptable to chew on. Of course, it can also be helpful to keep enticing objects like shoes and socks out of your puppy’s reach when they are learning what they can and can’t chew.

Dog Bad Habit Number 6: Begging for Food

Dog begging for food in kitchen

Most dogs love food, and human foods are often among some of their favorite things to eat. Unfortunately, this also means that some dogs will beg relentlessly for our food.

Here is how you can stop begging and prevent it.

How Can You Stop Dogs From Begging?

Once a dog learns how to beg, the best way that you can stop it is by no longer rewarding the behavior with scraps of food.

Over time your dog will learn that begging is no longer an effective way of getting tasty snacks.

You can also teach them to lay in another spot away from the table when you are eating by teaching them the place command

This can be especially helpful because it gives your dog something else to do besides begging at your feet.

How to Prevent Begging in Dogs

The most effective way of preventing begging in dogs is to never give them food as you are eating or cooking.

This will prevent the behavior from even starting in the first place.

Waiting until the end of your meal to give your dog some food is a great way to prevent begging, as it will prevent your dog from making the association between you eating and them getting treats.

How Long Does it Take to Break Out of a Dog’s Bad Habits?

Unfortunately, the amount of time that it takes to break a dog out of their bad habits depends entirely on the dog and the type of issue that they are having.

Generally speaking, more simple problems like digging tend to be remedied much more quickly than more complex issues such as separation anxiety.

No matter how much time that it takes though, helping your pet break their bad habits is well worth it.


Remember, patience and persistence are always key. You’ve got this! Have something to add? Drop us a comment below.


Lilianna Parker

Lilianna Parker is a certified dog trainer through the Animal Behavior College, and has been involved in training dogs in the New York State community for several years. Lilianna has also written numerous works on dog training using positive reinforcement. She believes that every dog owner should have the tools that they need to see their dogs succeed. Her articles and blog posts about dog training are excellent ways for dog owners to get started with force-free training. She owns Simply Positive Dog Training and when she’s not writing or training, she enjoys going for hikes with her Shiba Inu called Cleo!

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