Dogs aren’t deliberately annoying or malicious. Usually what we consider to be ‘bad behaviour’ are things that are natural for dogs but need to be discouraged, and can often arise from boredom or mismanaged training.
If you’ve noticed a problematic behaviour in your dog, try to address it as soon as possible, as the longer a habit goes on the harder it is to break. If you’ve tried to put an end to some bad dog behaviours by following good advice and are not seeing change, it might be time to call in a professional. But until that stage, here are five common dog behaviour problems and how to fix them:
This is a very common dog problem. How many times have you arrived at someone’s house to find that they have a dog that won’t stop jumping on you? This behaviour can cause you and your visitors to become scratched or dirty. While the obvious answer might be to keep your dog confined and away from guests, this is not always practical or desirable, so the behaviour needs to be redirected.
When your dog wants to jump up, command them to sit or lie instead. Once your dog understands and responds to these commands, you need to start using them when someone comes to the door. Start with your dog on a leash. When the visitor comes, ask your dog to sit. Wait until he does so and then open the door. Give your visitor some treats to also reward your dog when he follows the sit command from them, turning their back on him when he doesn’t. Stop your dog jumping by using the leash and reward him every time he responds to the sit or lie down commands.
As annoying as it can be, it’s important to remember that barking is a pretty natural thing for dogs to do – and most dogs really enjoy it!
In order to break the barking habit, start by trying not to ‘bark’ back at your dog by shouting. They may just think they have to bark louder at you. Next, use the barking as a way to train your dog. When your dog barks you can say ‘bark’ or ‘speak’ and then reward your dog with a treat for only barking when you say so. Once they’re eating (forcing them to chew and close their mouth) and then become quiet, you reinforce the silence with ‘shush’ and reward him again. Work this into a pattern so your dog will bark when you say to (reinforcing this by saying ‘good bark’ and the occasional treat), and then command quiet with ‘shush’ (reinforcing with the words ‘good shush’ and sometimes a treat).
Aggression can include things like your dog baring his teeth, guarding his food bowl or toys or aggressively barking and hounding other animals or people. Aggression can lead to biting so it’s important to take it seriously and act on it as soon as possible.
The first things to do, if you haven’t begun already, is to only reinforce positive behaviour and try not to respond to the aggression in an emotional way that could fuel the behaviour. Other options include taking your dog to the vet to assess their diet and upping their exercise, as this can often curb the frustration that may present as aggression.
An aggressive dog requires you to step up as the pack leader so that they respect you. This does not mean that you should be aggressive in turn; you need to be calm and assertive, imposing rules and boundaries for their behaviour. In most aggressive behaviour cases, you need to train your dog early on in their relationship with you, but if the aggression continues and you’re not sure what to do, this is definitely the time to call in a professional.
Chewing is something dogs do naturally to explore their world, so you shouldn’t aim for your dog to stop chewing altogether. Chewing is also common in puppies, especially when their permanent teeth are coming through, as it can relieve their pain. Before you try to change your dog’s behaviour, check that they do not have a medical problem like intestinal parasites or gastrointestinal problems that may cause excessive chewing.
If you’ve been given the all clear by a vet, then give your dog something to chew on that is not your clothes, furniture or shoes. It’s your responsibility as an owner to provide them with safe bones and toys, and there’s a massive range of chew toys to choose from so just keep trying different ones until you find one your dog enjoys!
Of course proper training is important here too. Start by locking your dog away from the items you don’t want him chewing on – such as the bedroom or even the whole house. When he chews his toys you should reward him and then gradually let him into the house, rewarding him again whenever he chews on the right things, and negatively reinforcing him when he chews on the wrong things. He should get the idea pretty quickly – chewing on toys equals rewards!
Once again, digging is a natural canine behaviour that you may not be able to stop entirely. Give your dog a special spot to dig, just for him. There is probably a place in the yard you can think of that won’t be noticed or cause any damage. Hide a toy in the dirt in that spot to encourage him to dig there and then reward the behaviour. Or if you’re really concerned about your lawn then you could buy or build your dog their very own sandbox!
If your dog is still digging in other areas, it could be because you haven’t directed him to the spot with toys and reinforced him for digging in the right area. Of course, digging can also be something your dog does when he or she is bored. So try and amuse them, even when you’re out. Give them toys that will last, and be sure they get enough exercise.
In nearly all bad behaviour situations, training is the answer. This will make both you and your dog’s lives more enjoyable – you’ll stop having a naughty dog and your dog will stop getting in trouble and get more treats! Start training as soon as possible when you get your dog and consider puppy school to make sure you’re learning how to train your dog in the best and safest way. Having a dog is a big responsibility and it’s up to you to make sure he or she behaves, but all the hard work will be returned by a loving best friend for life.