If you happen to have one of those dogs that gets frustrated easily, this article offers you some solutions.
First of all, you should understand that dogs use their mouth and paws for just about anything. So when it comes to getting frustrated, it’s common to see your dog do one or more of the following: jump up at you, scratch you, bark, nip you or bite really hard and cause damage! In fact, there’s one type of aggression, called redirected aggression, that is the result of a dog not being able to cope with frustration – in an attempt to get rid of the frustration the dog will bite (often very hard) the closest thing to his mouth, which can be your hand or other body part!
Now let’s look at some common situations that can cause your dog to get frustrated and what you can do to help him cope:
1 – Wanting food, whether it’s his meal or a food treat, or wanting a toy.
In this scenario, you are often advised to ask your dog to sit first and to eat his food only when you give him permission. My suggestion is to ask him for a “stay”, regardless of him being seated or standing up. If he’s desperate for food, he’s likely to be jumping all over the place and his brain is on ‘food’ mode instead of ‘listen to the sit cue’ mode. Repeating the “sit” cue over and over again will only cause more frustration. But if you ask him for something much simpler, such as a 2 second long stay, he’s more likely to comply. Forget the “sit”; just ask him to stay put for a couple of seconds, no matter what he’s doing. As time goes by and he starts realizing that being out of control will get him nowhere, but staying put will, you can be a bit more demanding and ask for a sit before allowing him to ‘attack’ his dinner or before giving him the treat or toy he wants.
2 – Wanting to greet visitors while jumping on them and nipping
Does it really seem likely that your dog will sit to be greeted while almost jumping out of his skin with excitement when someone visits your house? I don’t think so! Remember your dog gets frustrated due to not being able to do (or have access to) what he wants. My suggestion is that you begin by associating the doorbell to a ball or other toy your dog can chew on. That way, ringing the bell will become the cue to go get the ball, and your dog will learn to direct his need to nip or play-bite to the ball instead of directing it to visitors’ hands or arms. If your visitors like dogs, ask them to pat your dog no matter what he’s doing, as long as he’s not jumping on them or nipping them. In other words, your dog will still be greeted despite his level of excitement – jumping next to the visitor, running around in circles, spinning in place . . . these all count as behaviors that are incompatible with jumping on visitors and your dog should be rewarded for displaying them. Once he learns not to jump on visitors and nip them, you can make things more challenging for him by teaching him to go to a specific place (a mat or his bed) when the doorbell rings.
3 – Wanting to run out the front door or gate
This is another scenario where your easily frustrated dog will become very frustrated if you ask him to sit and stay when the front door or gate opens. Attach the leash to your dog’s collar or harness and begin by playing a fun game with him every time you get close to the front door or gate. The game is called “watch closely for everything your dog does and reward him for it”. Walking towards the door or gate, stopping, looking at you, looking somewhere else, and every single tiny action your dog does, voluntarily, count as rewardable behaviors. Remember this – your dog will repeat behaviors that he gets rewarded for. So if you reward everything your dog does except try to run out the door or gate, he’ll be more likely to do those things in future. Once you notice him not being so focused on the door or gate when you both approach it, you can start asking him to stay before opening it.
– Alexandra Santos –