Saturday, April 18, 2009

Modify Your Dog's Behaviors

Using Aversives To Modify Your Dog's Behaviors

Aversives are tools and techniques that your dog finds unpleasant and can be used to keep your dog away from a particular place or to stop him from engaging in certain behaviors. Please experiment cautiously and sparingly when choosing an aversive as individual responses will vary - it is often a case of trial and error. An aversive that is mildly unpleasant for one dog may be terrifying for another and have no effect on yet another. The goal is to apply the aversive at a level that will cause your dog to avoid the action or place without becoming fearful.

After finding an aversive that discourage your dog from a particular action or place, it is more effective when you also offer a pleasant and positive alternative to the place or action you need your pet to avoid.

Some typical aversives used for modifying dog's behaviors:

  • Textures
  • Tastes
  • Human-controlled Aversives
  • Surprise! Remote-controlled Aversives

Textures as Aversives

Apply these textures to places you need your dog to avoid as these textures will make his paws uncomfortable. In addition, add toys or treats to appropriate places to make them more attractive.


  • Shelf paper with the sticky side up
  • Double-sided carpet tape


  • Irregular/sharp rocks set firmly into dirt
  • Chicken wire set firmly into dirt with the sharp edges rolled under


  • Heavy plastic carpet runner with the pointed side up

You may need to weigh the material firmly or tape it to keep it in place. To protect furniture or floor finishes from sticky substances, attach the aversive material to a piece of foil or heavy plastic and secure that with weights or light tape. Texture aversives are more effective for puppies, small dogs and low-confidence dogs than for those that won't let a little obstacle stand in their way. Easy-to-attach, commercial varieties of texture aversives are available from most pet supply stores.

Tastes as Aversives

Most dogs do much of their investigative work (and much of their damage) with their mouths, anything displeasing to the tastebuds will often work quite well. However some of the following substances may damage furniture or floor finishes, make sure to test them in a hidden location before widespread use.

In addition, offer an appropriate item to your dog to chew on instead.

Example of such substances:

  • Bitter Apple or similar sprays and gels marketed specifically for taste aversion
  • Some hot sauces
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Insect repellants, especially those containing citronella or citrus odors
    (colognes, concentrated juices or fresh peels)
  • Some muscle rubs
  • Aloe gel

Human-controlled Aversives

Use these to interrupt or distract your dog from his undesirable behavior.

Such devices are not meant to terrify your dog but to provide a brief distraction. Make sure that the moment your dog's attention is focused on the distraction action, redirect his behavior to an appropriate object, and followed by giving him lots of praise.

Examples of such aversives:

  • Spray bottle or squirt gun filled with water or a combination of water and a
    little citronella oil. (Note: Avoid the Super-Soaker water guns that have a very
    forceful spray)
  • Loud air horn
  • Whistle
  • Shaker can (soda can containing nails, pennies, beans or pebbles, with the
    opening securely taped shut)

Surprise! Remote-controlled Aversives

Sometimes the best approach for teaching your dog is to work from a distance. If every aversive is delivered with you in the room, your dog may quickly learn to refrain from engaging in undesirable behaviors when you're around, but engage in those behaviors as soon as you walk out of the room.

Available at pet supply stores or easy to make at home, these items are:

  • Motion detector that reacts with a startling sound or a spray of water
  • Snappy Trainer or an upside-down mouse trap that is securely taped under paper to
    avoid contact
  • Aluminum pie plate or cookie sheet containing water, pennies, beans or pebbles -
    preferably balanced precautiously
  • Scat Mat (gives a slight static shock)

WARNING: For fearful dogs, avoid using surprise techniques, especially noises. Also, remember to start out with the lowest level aversive first and experiment cautiously to see what works for your pet.

The use of aversives offers the advantage of modifying certain behaviors in your dog while distancing you from the 'correction'. Experiment with different types of aversives and try to match the aversive to your dog's nature and temperament. For example, using a surprise technique on a fearful dog should only be the last resort.

Above all, be patient and give your dog frequent play sessions and attention as well as appropriate objects for him to play with. That way, your dog's antics will amuse you instead of annoy you, and the special bond between both of you will continue to grow.

- extracted from Dumb Friends League (ARDD_R1004)

And remember to praise your dog abundantly when he does the right thing!

You Can Do It!

Kum Chee
A Happy Dog Lover and Owner


  1. Just started following you on TWITTER.Checked your blog out,I like it.I'll be visiting more often!