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If a dog has been rewarded with attention or food for pawing in the past, teach him that pawing accomplishes the opposite of what he intends, such as the removal of attention. If a dog paws for attention, freeze like a statue, avert eye contact or even turn and walk away for 10 to 30 seconds. Give attention only when the dog is calm and his paws are grounded. Be aware that when you first start ignoring it, pawing is likely to get worse before it gets better in what is called an extinction burst, in which a previously successful behavior is tried with more gusto until the pet gives it up altogether. The more consistent all family members are in not rewarding pawing, the greater the chance of success.
When canines play, they often use their paws to touch the other dog. When a human plays with a dog, though, paws and nails on skin is not nearly as enjoyable, especially without the layer of fur protection that dogs have. Train your dog that the touch of a paw on human skin ends play if he has a habit of being rough with his paws. Hold a time-out period of ignoring the dog for 10 to 30 seconds before resuming, and continue only if the pawing has discontinued. Toys also can be removed if the dog paws, such as by tucking a tennis ball under your arm if the dog paws for you to throw it and tossing it only when all four paws are grounded. Stay away from faster games of chase or hand wrestling if they are too stimulating for the dog and pawing occurs. Also, keep toys low enough to the ground so that the dog doesn't paw to reach them.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, teaching your dog to perform an unwanted behavior on cue gives you more control over the behavior. Training the dog to perform the behavior when asked gives the dog a greater awareness of his action and makes it more likely to happen only when asked for. Train the "shake" with a word or hand signal to better teach your canine that he will be rewarded only for the times the behavior was asked for with the cue, and never without it. "Shake" can even be a way to reward your dog for staying calm. For some dogs, the reason for scratching is simply to make a physical connection with a person. If a dog remains relaxed in a situation in which he normally would paw, give him the cue to "shake" and allow for a controlled paw touch as a reward for polite behavior.
In most situations, dogs are given too little exercise, intensifying all of their reactions within the home. The ideal amount of exercise for a dog will depend on the breed, size, age and physical limitations of the dog, but generally speaking, two to three activities per day that leave the dog panting from the exercise, rather than the heat, is ideal for keeping a canine calm.
Lastly, never hesitate to work with a positive reinforcement trainer who can further guide you in honing your pet's manners.
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