Your dog may be your best friend, but even great buddies have boundaries. If you’d never have sex with your pal in the room, why would you do it while Fido sits on the floor?
Steer clear of these five activities when your pup is present—unless you want to raise a devil dog.
If you play-wrestle with your pooch, you’re showing him that rough or physical interaction is acceptable, says Michael Baugh, a Houston-based dog trainer and certified behavior consultant.
Some dogs handle this well and understand it’s a game that only happens when you initiate it. But others can get overexcited or take things too far.
They may try to jump on you, knock you down, or even bite you or other people at unpredictable times, says Baugh.
How to handle it: Teach him how to associate playtime with very specific actions and commands.
For example, get down on all fours with him and say “let’s play” before roughhousing. End by saying “settle,” petting him calmly, and encouraging him to sit.
But not all dogs can handle this, says Baugh. If your dog gets too amped up or doesn’t understand the boundaries of playtime, leave the wrestling to the guys in spandex.
2. Argue with Your Girlfriend
When you’re upset, so is your dog, Baugh says. If he isn’t used to seeing you pissed off, your shouting or angry gestures will put him on edge—and that could lead to barking, nipping, or trying to settle the fight himself.
In some cases, your dog may even start to associate your angry or aggressive mood with your partner’s presence. If that happens, your pooch may consider your girl threatening and may bite her, says Baugh.
How to handle it: Keep your spats low-key and civil, says Baugh. (Or step outside to trade barbs.)
3. Have the Guys Over for Game Day
If your dog’s used to spending time with you in a quiet environment, filling your place with a half-dozen dudes—all of whom are yelling and high-fiving—can frighten him, Baugh says.
“A lot of dogs will retreat quietly to another room, but others may bark or bite if you and your friends all jump up and start shouting at the TV,” he adds.
How to handle it: If your dog’s reaction is mild—ears or tail tucked back, whimpering—keep treats handy so you can implement a counter-conditioning program, Baugh says.
Every time you realize you’re shouting or cheering, give your dog a treat and a pat. He’ll come to associate your game-watching gatherings with food and fun.
But if he’s being more aggressive, you’ll have to hold game day elsewhere until he learns to spend time alone in another room.
4. Send Him Mixed Messages:
Maybe you tell your dog you’re going to the park when you’re really headed to the vet. Or you train him to jump and hug you when you come in the house, but then scold him when he does the same thing to your guests.
Bad idea: “Your dog needs to be able to rely on you,” says Baugh. “If you’re unreliable, he’s going to be unreliable, too.”
That doesn’t mean he’ll suddenly start acting aggressively, but he may be anxious or seem out of sorts.
How to handle it: If you do what your dog expects 99 times out of 100, the occasional deviation won’t matter much, says Baugh.
Your goal is to be consistent and honest. Like young children, dogs do best when they can rely on routines and predictable behaviors.