Common Dog Behaviour Issues
Dogs having behavioural issues are usually misunderstood by their owners. It’s not like we can talk to our dogs and ask what's wrong with them so we need to learn to understand their body language and tag team it with some training. Maybe you're new to being a dog owner or you're considering getting a dog. Completely understanding the most common dog behavioural issues is the first step towards solving and preventing them. A solid foundation of behaviour and obedience training will help you prevent these issues and better control your dog.
First up is barking. Most dogs vocalise in a range of ways such as barking, howling and whining. Barking a lot can be considered a behaviour issue, as well as being incredibly annoying and embarrassing when out in public. Before you can correct this behaviour you'll need to work out why they're doing it in the first place. For example, it could be a warning or it could be to alert you. It could equally be your dog being playful or out of excitement. It could also be out of boredom or it could be your dog trying to get your attention or even responding to other dogs. This will most likely become obvious depending on your situation at the time. Learn to control excessive barking. Consider teaching the bark/quiet commands. Be consistent and patient and remember that both humans and dogs alike learn by repetition. Address any underlying causes of barking. Dedication and attention to detail can go a long way to stop a dog from barking unnecessarily. Chewing Next up is chewing and really this is just a natural action for all dogs. Dog’s just gonna chew, it’s hardwired in their brains. However, if your puppy is chewing things that should not be chewed, such as TV remotes, furniture, the PS4 Virtual Reality Headset you’ve just bought and haven’t had time to play because the games take so long to install (I’m still mad, Blue!) then there’s ways that you can limit this. The most common cause in a puppy is because they’re teething, they could also be bored or just have excess energy which is typically the case when they’re left alone while everyone else is at work. Chewing could also be down to anxiety or curiosity (this is also a big one for puppies). Encourage your dog to chew on the right things by providing plenty of appropriate chew toys like these. Keep personal items away from your dog, lock up the VR Headsets right next to the TV remotes. When you are not home, keep your dog crated or confined to an area where less destruction can be caused. If you catch your dog chewing the wrong thing, quickly distract your dog with a sharp noise. Then, replace the item with a chew toy. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so it can wear off energy and be stimulated in that way rather than turning to chewing. For chewing we also recommend puppy time outs, after the VR incident we started time outs and Blue’s behaviours improved dramatically! We've got a guide on how to implement timeouts that you can read here.
Digging Behaviour issue number three is digging. If given the chance, most dogs will do some amount of digging; it's a matter of instinct just like biting. Certain dog breeds such as terriers, are more prone to digging because of their hunting histories. In general, most dogs are digging for several reasons. Just like chewing, it could be boredom of having too much energy, it could be anxiety or fear and it could be a hunting instinct. It could also be to hide possessions such as toys or bones or it could be to either escape an area or to access an area (digging next to a fence is usually this). It can get rather frustrating if your dog likes to dig up your yard. Try and determine the cause of the digging, then work to eliminate that source. Give your dog more exercise, spend more quality time together, and work on extra training. If digging seems inevitable, set aside an area where your dog can freely dig, like a sandbox. Train your dog that it is acceptable to dig in this area only, you could even hide treats in that area for them to solidify this area being the only place to dig. Separation Anxiety We don’t consider this to be a “behavioural problem”, more of an emotional one, however bad behaviour does span from this. Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly discussed issues with dogs. Manifestations of social anxiety include vocalisation, chewing, inappropriate urination and defecation, and other forms of destruction that occur when a dog is separated from his owner.
Not all of these actions are the result of separation anxiety and for the destructive behaviour you can limit that through time-outs with this guide. Signs of true separation anxiety are things such as: If your dog becomes anxious when you prepare to leave the house If the destructive behaviour occurs under 45 minutes after you leave If your dog wants to be around you constantly at home If your dog tries to maintain physical contact at all times Actual separation anxiety is something that needs dedicated training and is an ongoing process for quite a while as your dog needs to learn to be sure that you’re definitely coming back. There are certain breeds of dogs that are prone to separation anxiety that we’ve got an article about in the Dog Blog section. “Inappropriate Elimination” - peeing at a bad time Inappropriate urination and defecation are among the most frustrating dog behaviours, mainly because they’re a bit gross to have to clean up. They can damage areas of your home such as your carpets and make your dog unwelcome in public places or at the homes of your friends or family. It is most important that you discuss this behaviour with your veterinarian first to rule out health problems that may be causing it. If no medical cause is found, try to determine the reason for the behaviour, which can come down to one of the following: Submissive/excitement urination (We have a guide on how to deal with this here) Territorial marking Anxiety Lack of proper housebreaking Inappropriate elimination is unavoidable in puppies, especially before 12 weeks of age because they’re still learning, however older dogs are another story. Many dogs require serious behaviour modification to rid them of the habit once it becomes ingrained. We also have a guide on how to potty train your older dog here.
Begging Begging might seem like a nice trick for your dog to learn, but it can quickly spiral out of control and lead to health issues including digestive issues and obesity. Dogs will happily beg because they love food. However, table scraps are not treats, and food is not love. Yes, it is hard to resist that longing look, but giving in "just this once" creates a problem in the long run. When you teach your dog that begging is permitted, you are sending the wrong message. Before you sit down to eat, tell your dog to go to its place, preferably where it will not be able to stare at you. If necessary, confine your dog to another room. If it behaves, give it a special treat only after you and your family are completely finished eating. It’s best not to let your dog have people food when you’re all sitting down for a meal, you could use this time to feed your dog their own meal if you’re often sitting down to eat around the same time each day. Chasing A dog's desire to chase moving things is simply a display of predatory instinct they’ve inherited from their great granddads - who were wolves. Many dogs will chase other animals, people, and cars and all of these can lead to dangerous and devastating outcomes especially when chasing cars. While you may not be able to stop your dog from trying to chase, you can take steps to prevent a disaster. Keep your dog confined or on a leash at all times while you’re outside unless you have a fenced off area where your dog can’t escape or chase anyone. Training your dog to come when called is a powerful behaviour tool for times like this. Have a dog whistle or noisemaker on hand to get your dog's attention is equally as good, we’ve got a guide on whistle training here. Stay aware and watch for potential triggers, like joggers and other dogs. Your best chance at success is to keep the chase from getting out of control. Dedicated training over the course of your dog's life will teach him to focus his attention on you first, before running off. Jumping Up Jumping up is a common and natural behaviour in dogs. It’s learned when puppies jump up to reach and greet their mothers. Later on in life they may jump up when greeting people arriving home. Dogs may also jump up when excited or seeking an item in the person's hands. A jumping dog can be annoying and even dangerous. There are many methods to stop a dog's jumping, but not all will be successful. Lifting a knee to push your dog away, grabbing the paws, or pushing the dog out of the way might work in some cases, but for most dogs this sends the wrong message. Jumping up is often attention-seeking behaviour, so any acknowledgement of your dog's actions provide an instant reward even if it’s a negative behaviour from you, reinforcing the jumping. We cover this topic in our guide on how to start giving time-outs to your dog. Eventually you can train your jumpy dog to greet you getting home from work by sitting and waiting for you to get through the door and put your things down before they get cuddles and strokes. The best method is to simply turn away and ignore your dog. Walk away if necessary. Do not make eye contact, speak, or touch your dog. Go about your business. When he relaxes and remains still, calmly reward him. It won't take long before your dog gets the message.
Biting Dogs bite and nip for several reasons, most of which are instinctive. Puppies bite and nip to explore the environment. Mother dogs teach their puppies not to bite too hard and discipline them when needed. This helps the puppies develop bite inhibition. Owners often need to show their puppies that mouthing and biting are not acceptable by continuing to teach bite inhibition. Beyond puppy behaviour, dogs may bite for several reasons. The motivation to bite or snap is not necessarily about aggression. A dog may snap, nip, or bite for a variety of reasons. Fear, Defensiveness, Protection of property, Pain or sickness or Predatory instinct could be the reason behind this, or it could be a battle of who’s the alpha. If your dog nips at your feet, which is another common issue, wrap your hand around their nose and mouth for a few seconds to stop them. This mimics the behaviour control their mothers would give them, and although uncomfortable, it won't hurt your puppy. Any dog may bite if the circumstances warrant it in the dog's mind. Owners and breeders are the ones who can help decrease the tendency for any type of dog to bite through proper training, socialisation, and breeding practices.
Aggression Dog aggression is exhibited by growling, snarling, showing teeth, lunging, and biting. It is important to know that any dog has the potential to show aggression, regardless of breed or history. However, dogs with violent or abusive histories and those bred from dogs with aggressive tendencies are much more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour towards people or other dogs. Unfortunately, some breeds are labelled "dangerous" and banned in certain areas. However this usually isn’t the case - breeds of dogs aren’t inherently bad, just as it is with humans, it's much more to do with how the dog is raised and the experiences they have. A dog's environment has a major impact on behaviour. Also, regardless of breed, a dog may inherit some aggressive traits. Fortunately, most experts agree that breed-specific legislation is not the answer. Reasons for aggression are basically the same as the reasons a dog will bite or snap, but overall canine aggression is a much more serious problem. If your dog has aggressive tendencies, consult your vet first as it may stem from a health problem. Then, seek the help of an experienced dog trainer or behaviourist. Serious measures should be taken to keep others safe from aggressive dogs.
Thanks for reading! Here are some other articles from our dog section that you may find useful!