Dog behavior problems can be frustrating if you don’t understand why they’re acting the way they are. But if you know the reasons behind their bad behavior, you’ve taken the first step to fixing it. So let’s take a look at some of the most common dog behavior problems and how to solve them.
Common dog behavior problems
The most common dog behavior problems include:
- Excessive barking.
- Inappropriate defecation and urination.
- Jumping up.
Dog barking is normal, of course. But excessive barking is a problem especially if it becomes uncontrollable. And it’s one of the most common dog behavior problems. Luckily, with a little patience you can train your dog not to bark excessively.
The most common reasons for barking are as follows:
To alert or warn you
Dogs bark to alert us to any intruders or strangers near our house. They’re loyal guards and when they sense danger, they warn us and try to scare the intruder by barking.
But excessive barking, when there’s no sign of danger, can be inconvenient and annoying.
Your dog wants to play
Dogs show their excitement and playfulness by barking. When your dog wants to have quality playtime with you, they’ll often bark to get you to play.
Your dog wants to get your attention
Your dog barks to get your attention. It may be a stranger outside or a noise that threatened them. When your dog’s not feeling well or comfortable or is feeling pain, they’ll bark too. If they’re hungry, feeling too hot, or want you to do something, they’ll also bark.
Your dog is anxious
When dogs feel unsafe and threatened, they bark until they’re reassured. They may feel anxious about noises or movements. They may bark when you leave them alone and they suffer separation anxiety. An aversion to certain people and other animals may cause them to bark too.
Is your dog outside on their own all day, tied to their leash in their small dog house? If so, there’s no wonder they’re barking a lot. Your dog’s likely bored out of their mind and is asking you to take them for a walk or to play with them. All dogs need stimulation and attention. They’ve got a natural instinct to be active, digging, chasing and tearing things. It’s important to remember that dogs are social animals.
In response to other dogs
Dogs bark at other dogs to communicate or to warn them off their territory. As the alpha dog in a pack, a dog wants to make its superiority known by barking. This is normal for dogs, especially those who aren’t used to socializing with other dogs.
Chewing is normal and natural to all dogs. It can be one of the most annoying (and expensive!) dog behavior problems though if it gets uncontrollable at times and becomes destructive. Just as you can train your dog not to bark too much, with a little effort you can also teach your dog not to chew the wrong things.
These are common reasons why dogs chew:
They may be teething
When your dog is teething, they feel pain. Chewing on things helps them to ease the pain.
Your dog is bored or has too much excess energy
Dogs who don’t get the exercise they need may chew on anything they can get their mouth on. Dogs need physical activities and stimulation to get rid of excess energy.
Your dog is anxious
When you leave your dog they may become anxious and lonely. They may also become anxious due to fear of other dogs. This is especially true in cases where dogs are not used to socializing with other dogs.
They may be curious
Like humans, dogs are curious about their environment. But curiosity is stronger with dogs as they have a better senses of sight and smell. They often sate this curiosity by chewing on things.
One of a dog’s many natural instincts is to dig. Some breeds, such as terriers, have more urges to dig as they are hunting dogs and are natural diggers. Digging is one of the most common dog behavior problems with such breeds.
Here are some reasons why dogs dig:
Your dog is bored and needs to let out excess energy
What do dogs do after barking and chewing when they’re still bored? They dig. Digging is a physical activity that stimulate and exercises them. It helps a dog get rid of excess energy and keeps them active.
Your dog is scared or anxious
Dogs left alone in the house or put in an environment with other dogs or animals may dig. They do this because they’re scared or anxious.
Your dog is acting on their hunting instinct
Dogs have natural hunting instincts and they show this behaviour by digging. They do this to find food or create a habitat. There are certain breeds of dogs which are born hunters and they can’t help acting on this instinct.
They’re looking for comfort
Dogs may dig to find comfort such as cooling off in a hot environment. They dig into the soil to create a cool bed during hot conditions.
They want to hide possessions
Dogs can be possessive of their food and toys. They dig into the soil and hide them.
To gain access or escape
Your dog may be digging to gain access to a place or to get away from where you keep them. They may be showing signs of restlessness and discomfort towards their environment.
Inappropriate defecation and urination
This may be the most frustrating of all dog behaviour problems. It not only makes your dog unwelcome in public places, it also damages areas at home. The reason behind the behavior may have something to do with your dog’s health. But if you’ve ruled this out with a vet, there are other possible reasons for this behaviour:
Submissive or excitement urination
This can actually be a good thing rather than a dog behavior problem. Dogs do this instinctively to let you know that you’re the boss. At the same time they may lower their tails and ears, lie down, lower their body or roll over. It’s only a problem if your dog does this all the time in the wrong places.
They may want to mark their territory
Dogs usually mark their territory by urinating the area. They’ve got a strong sense of smell. They use “scent marking” by spraying urine on objects or places. They do this to mark territory and establish ownership. This plays an important role in dog communication.
It’s their way of telling other dogs information. This includes things such as where they hang out and how long they’ve been there. And information about sexual receptivity for female dogs too.
Your dog is anxious and lonely
Your dog may be urinating because they feel scared and lonely. This is especially true when they’re alone. When a dog’s nervous, they may mark and urinate on furniture to make themselves feel all is well. Scent marking is normal among dogs.
Dogs have natural predatory instincts. This is why they chase moving objects such as cars, people and animals. It’s normal for dogs to chase after their prey. But this natural behaviour can be dangerous for your dog. So although natural, it’s a problem too. Knowing how to control it is important to keep your dog safe and healthy.
It’s natural for dogs to jump up. This is because when they were puppies they would jump up to greet and reach their mothers. And dogs can continue to show this behavior towards their human owners. Dogs may also jump up on humans to show their dominance and to seek attention.
Dogs may bite because they are manifesting their natural pack mentality. When dogs are puppies, they nip and bite on their mother and other dogs. They do this to explore their surrounding and learn their roles in the pack. It’s important you train a puppy not to bite at an early age.
Dogs bite for the following reasons:
They’re afraid or want to defend themselves
It’s natural for your dog to defend themselves by biting. Their instinct is to bite when they feel threatened or scared.
They’re protecting your property
To defend your property from intruders, your dog’s natural instinct is to bite. They do this to scare strangers and any possible threat.
They’re hurt or uneasy
When your dog feels discomfort and is restless, they may bite. They do this to let you know they need comforting or taking out for a walk.
To show dominance and predatory instinct
Dogs will bite to show they are the dominant alpha male in the pack.
Dogs also show their predatory instinct by biting their prey.
Dog behavior training techniques
It’s essential that you understand the reasons behind dog behavior problems. When you do, you can train your dog how to manage this behavior. Then you can enjoy your relationship with them more.
Here are some training techniques for dealing with dog behavior problems:
Give your dog what they need. Dogs will sometimes bark to get your attention. When they bark, we might be tempted to yell at them to stop. This is a mistake. To your dog, getting yelled at is better than nothing.
As boredom can be a reason for your dog’s barking, make sure they get regular exercise and play time.
Also ensure your dog has enough food and water and some toys to play with when they’re alone at home. Moreover, make sure your dog has a comfortable place to stay in and relax. Get your dog used to being alone, and train them to know you’ll come back later when you leave.
Try to stop petting or rewarding your dog for doing nothing. This is because they become dependent on this reinforcement. And then they find it hard to be happy and comfortable when they’re alone without you to give them rewards. The only time you should give your dog treats is when they’re able to respond correctly to a command such as “quiet!” or “stay!”
Try to say goodbye fast when leaving. Dogs remember things well. When you get your dog used to seeing you go, they feel that they’ll be alone. Then they start feeling anxious about being alone. So don’t make a big deal about leaving.
When your dog barks, try to distract them to make them forget about their feelings of anxiety or fears. The idea is to keep them from remembering whatever caused them to bark too much.
The best way to train your dog to stop their excessive chewing is to provide them with chew toys. You can buy these from your local pet store or you can improvise and use an old object for them to chew on.
Try to keep your personal items away from your pets. When you need to leave the house, keep your dog confined to a space where they’re not able to chew on anything.
When your dog starts to chew something they shouldn’t be chewing, correct them with a sharp noise. And remember to always give your dog enough physical activity or exercise.
You’ll need to spend some time watching your dog to determine the reason for their digging.
Try to spend quality time with them and give them plenty of exercise. Also try to teach them dog tricks to stimulate them.
If they still dig, try preparing an area such as a sand box where it’s okay for them to dig. Train them to do the digging only in this area.
Inappropriate defecation and urination
The first thing to do to help your dog to stop soiling and urinating is to take them to the vet. The vet will be able to rule out medical conditions such as urinary tract infection or diabetes.
Once you know the reason is not medical, you will need to observe your dog to determine the true reason. Then you can take the appropriate action.
To train your dog not to chase moving objects, people or other animals, teach them to come to you when called. You can shout or use a whistle to get your dog’s attention. Be aware of whatever triggers the chasing behavior. You may choose to take your dog to dedicated training to help overcome this issue.
The best way to deal with this behavior problem is to ignore your dog when they do it.
Just turn away and don’t give them any attention. Try not to make any eye contact, touch or speak to your dog. Just carry on with whatever it is you’re doing.
When they stop jumping up and relax, reward them with attention, petting and maybe a treat. Your dog will learn to associate behaving to getting rewards and will soon stop jumping up.
To prevent your dog from biting, it’s best to socialize them. They’ve got to get used to having other people and animals around.
Dog behavior problems are often just communication problems between dog and owner. When you understand and start dealing with the issues, your dog will start behaving. And then you’ll have a much better and more rewarding relationship with your dog.