Dog Behavior: Dog Behavior Problems
As dog owners and people who care deeply for animals and
wildlife, we wanted our Dog Encyclopedia to be a website that could
empower pet owners to create the most positive, loving
environment for their dogs. Dog Encyclopedia realizes that owning a
dog is like adding a new member to your family.
Most experienced dog owners are familiar with common dog behavior
problems, but some may wonder why dogs exhibit these behaviors.
Barking, biting, chewing and many other common dog behaviors are
often misunderstood and mishandled by dog owners. Perhaps you are
new to dog ownership, considering getting a dog, or just wish to
better manage your dog's behavior problems. Thoroughly understanding
the most common dog behavior problems is the first step to solving
and preventing them. A solid foundation of obedience training will
help you prevent or better control common dog behavior problems.
1. Barking-Most dogs bark, howl and whine to some degree. Excessive
barking is considered a behavior problem. Before you can correct
barking, determine why your dog is vocalizing in the first place.
These are the most common types of barking:
Warning or Alert
Responding to Other Dogs
Learn to control excessive barking. Be consistent and patient. Also,
consider teaching the Bark/Quiet Commands. Dedication and attention
to detail can go a long way.
2. Chewing-Chewing is a natural action for all dogs - it's just a
part of the way they are wired. However, chewing can quickly become
a behavior problem if your dog causes destruction. The most common
reasons dogs chew are as follows:
Boredom / Excess Energy
Curiosity (especially puppies)
Encourage your dog to chew on the right things by providing plenty
of chew toys. Keep personal items away from your dog. 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 correct him with a sharp noise. Then, replace the
item with a chew toy. One of the most important things you can do:
make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise!
3. Digging-If given the chance, most dogs will do some amount of
digging - it's a matter of instinct. Certain breeds, like Terriers,
are more prone to digging because of their hunting histories. If
your dog digs up your yard, it can get pretty frustrating for you.
Try and determine the cause of the digging, then work to eliminate
that source. Spend more time with your dog, give him more exercise,
and work on extra training. If digging is inevitable, set aside an
area where your dog can learn it is "okay" to dig, like a sand box.
In general, most dogs dig for these reasons:
Boredom or Excess Energy
Anxiety or Fear
Comfort-Seeking (such as nesting or cooling off)
Hiding Possessions (like bones or toys)
To Escape or Gain Access
4. Separation Anxiety-Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly
discussed dog behavior problems. Manifestations include
vocalization, 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. Signs of true separation anxiety include:
Dog becomes anxious when owner prepares to leave
Misbehavior occurs in the first 15-45 minutes after owner leaves
Dog wants to follow owner around constantly
Dog tries to be touching owner whenever possible
True separation anxiety requires dedicated training, behavior
modification and desensitization exercises. Medication may be
recommended in extreme cases, but this should be a last resort.
5. Inappropriate Elimination-Inappropriate urination and defecation
are among the most frustrating dog behaviors. They can damage areas
of your home and make your dog unwelcome in public places or at the
homes of others. It is most important that you discuss this behavior
with your veterinarian first to rule out health problems. Next,
determine the reason for the behavior, which can come down to one of
the following: Submissive or Fear Urination, Territorial Marking ,
Anxiety, Attention-seeking, Lack of proper housebreaking.
Inappropriate elimination is unavoidable in puppies, especially
before 12 weeks of age. Older dogs are another story - many require
serious behavior modification to rid them of the habit because you
must often alter their perception of themselves.
6. Begging-Begging is a bad habit, but many dog owners unfortunately
encourage it. This can lead to digestive problems and obesity. Dogs
beg because they love food - but 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. In a
pack setting, a subordinate would never beg from alpha dogs without
reprimand. When you teach your dog that begging is permitted, you
jeopardize your role as pack leader. Before you sit down to eat,
tell your dog to stay, preferably where he will not be able to stare
at you. If necessary, confine him to another room. If he behaves,
give him a special treat only after you and your family are
completely finished eating.
7. Chasing- A dog's desire to chase moving things is simply a
display of predatory instinct. Many dogs will chase other animals,
people and cars. All of these can lead to dangerous and devastating
outcomes! While you may not be able to stop your dog from trying to
chase, you can take steps to prevent disaster. Keep your dog on a
leash at all times (unless directly supervised indoors). Train your
dog to come when called. Have a dog whistle or noisemaker on hand to
get your dog's attention. Stay aware and watch for potential
triggers, like joggers. 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.
8. Jumping Up-Puppies jump up to reach and greet their mothers.
Later, they may jump up when greeting people. Dogs may also jump up
to exert dominance. 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, grabbing the paws, or
pushing the dog away might work for some, but for most dogs this
sends the wrong message. Jumping up is often attention-seeking
behavior, so any acknowledgment of your dog's actions provide a
reward! The best method: simply turn away and ignore your dog. 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.
9. Biting- Dogs bite for reasons that can be traced back to instinct
and pack mentality. Puppies bite and nip on other dogs and people as
a means for exploring their environment and learning their place in
the pack. Owners MUST teach their puppies that mouthing and biting
are not acceptable. Beyond puppy behavior, the motivation to bite or
snap typically comes from the following: Fear or Defensiveness,
Protection of Property, Pain or Sickness, Dominance Assertion or
Predatory Instinct. Owners and breeders are the ones who can help
decrease the tendency for any type of dog to bite through proper
training, socialization and breeding practices.
10. 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 become aggressive, 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 behavior towards people or other dogs. 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 - it may stem from a health problem. Then, seek the help of an
experienced dog trainer. Serious measures should be taken to keep
others safe from aggressive dogs!