Does some annoying dog behavior drive you crazy? It’s easy for something repetitive to make us feel like we want to jump out a window. Sometimes it’s something simple or innocent, but in extreme cases it might be a serious issue.
In this post, I provide a bit of advice regarding a Cocker Spaniel that has a habit that is annoying his human. Do note that if you are experiencing a behavior change, especially a sudden or extreme one, have your dog checked by a veterinarian to rule out any possible health issues. And if your behavior problem is extreme, arrange a consultation with a behaviorist or experienced trainer to observe the issue and provide suggestions.
Annoying dog behavior: The question
Moses is my 7 year old Cocker Spaniel. He loves to walk through the dining room chairs like a maze. However, my floors are hardwood and the constant bumping of the chairs on the floors is loud and annoying. Is this due to some disorder or condition?
If your cocker is demonstrating any kind of sudden behavior change, I would recommend consulting a vet for a check up to rule out any health issue. Only a vet will be able to determine if it is. If it is a sudden change, it could possibly indicate a disorder or condition, but not always. I would also recommend this if the behavior is extreme or compulsive in nature – Moses is exhibiting stress or anxiety, or obsessive “OCD” style behavior – it would also be worth consulting a vet regarding health. If the vet gives you the all clear, and you’re dealing with something intense, then I would track down a behaviorist who can observe what is going on to help you sort out a solution. For extreme behaviors, or unusual ones, it is very hard to diagnose or recommend without seeing what’s happening first hand and asking a lot of questions. Make sure whoever you see asks you a lot of questions, and take videos for them in advance if you can.
If it is not a health issue, and a minor annoyance, I can offer some general suggestions of things to try (again, this is pretty high level without a lot of knowledge of the situation!) Training and/or management could help out. Dogs are often quite simple in that if you give them a choice between two things, they will usually choose what’s better for them. So you need to figure out what motivates Moses more than bumping the chairs (I have an article about motivation here: yabb.ly/4axjK4).
Then you want to observe Moses and figure out what he does right before walking through the chairs, and offer something better before that happens. You want to condition him to seek that better thing (say, go to you to toss a ball, or go to you for a small treat) before going to the chairs. It may take some trial and error to figure out the motivator, and it will take some time to condition him actually changing his mind about what he’s about to do. You will have to be around quite consistently at first to redirect the behavior, and then hopefully it will start becoming a natural response.
If this doesn’t work, and the chairs are his biggest motivator for whatever reason, then you can try management. This is essentially blocking access to the table and chairs, changing the configuration, adding something to the chairs that goes over the legs, etc. No training at all, but might help with your sanity. If this causes a significant amount of stress for Moses, I would then again recommend a quick consult with a behaviorist to observe first-hand and offer more targeted recommendations. They would need to figure out why Moses wants to do that in the first place to offer ways to modify that behavior.
This question and answer originally appeared in a Yabbly AMA that I hosted.