21 Common Dog Behavior Problems and Solutions

Dog Behavior Problems

Good manners are essential, be it human or dog. Application of good manners provides structure to daily life. Good etiquettes provide positive patterns for your dog to receive praise, and, in turn, teach your dog good behavior as a lifestyle. The more avenues you have to develop good behavior, the more well behaved your dog will be in all situations. In this article, we will discuss some of the common behavioral problems that we see in our dogs and the secrets to creating and reinforcing excellent etiquette to them.

1. Running Away

The first thing to do in this situation is to get your dog back. The most important thing to do then is to not scold your dog. You don’t want your dog to think that coming back to you gets him into trouble. The next time something like this happens, your dog will be reluctant to come back to you.

Solution:

If your dog gets away from you and is making this a game of “catch me if you can”, stop chasing him. Just get down on one knee and start to look for something on the ground. Just focus entirely on this spot, while keeping your dog in your peripheral vision. Remember that dogs are focused-animals. If you take your attention away from them and focus it on a certain spot, they will wander over to that spot wondering what’s more interesting to us humans than them. This is a good way to catch hold of your dog and bring him back home. Try this trick. It really works! Most dogs will run away if their basic needs are not being met. Here are some points, which may prove handy while addressing this problem:

Dogs Are Focused Animals

Dogs Are Focused Animals

  • Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise at home.
  • Take your dog out on regular walks at least 3 times a day.
  • Increase his social interaction both inside and out of the house.
  • Take him to new and interesting places 3 times a week.

2. Nuisance Barking

Barking is a natural form of communication for dogs. But sometimes barking can become a real nuisance for us and our neighbors. To curb this behavior, we must first determine why our dog is barking. Most of the times, the primary reason for this kind of barking is to get your attention.

Solution:

Is your dog bored? Are you giving him enough attention and exercise? This could be the reason why your dog is showing attention seeking behavior.

  • Take your dog for regular walks and provide ample play time to your dog at home.
  • You may also perform about 10 minutes of obedience training exercises during phases of excessive barking.

3. Garbage Stealing and Counter Surfing

A Dog Eating Garbage

A Dog Eating The Garbage

The root cause of these behavior problems is similar: boredom and opportunity. If your dog is bored, he will look for something to do. Odors of food mostly drive the search.

Solution:

  • Solve the boredom. Dogs require regular exercise and training. Adequate mental stimulation can be provided by performing obedience training or teaching new tricks to your dog. Apart from this, 2-3 workouts of 20-30 minutes each are probably the minimum.

  • Remove the opportunity. During the periods between workouts, prevent nuisance behaviors by keeping your dog on the leash. This isn’t bad; because if you have sufficiently exercised your dog, your dog will go to sleep, once he is tied. This will prevent the nuisance behavior from repeating itself.
  • Stop chasing your dog if he has picked up something. This may teach another attention seeking behavior to your dog if he realizes that picking up something from the garbage or the counter gets you to chase after him, and it becomes a fun activity for the dog.
  • Crate training can also be effective to curb such behaviors.

4. Chewing

If a dog, who is older than 6 months, is still chewing whatever he can get his mouth on, it is mostly because of stress and boredom. We also need to consider our choices of the kind of toys we are giving our dog to play with. Rawhide bones may have the same taste and texture as that of your leather shoes.

Solution:

  • Provide adequate chew toys and mental games to your dog. You can buy these at any of the pet stores near you.
Dog Chewing Toy

Dog Chewing Toy

  • Emphasize games that not only provide mental stimulation but also physical exercise.
  • 2-3 obedience training workouts a day would be sufficient to tire out your dog.
  • Check to see if you have accidentally taught your dog to chew on inappropriate things due to your toy choices.

5. Coprophagia (Stool Eating) In Puppies

Puppies will usually eat their stool if their body is craving protein. Since there is undigested protein in the stool, your puppy seeks it out and devours it. Prevention of this behavior is necessary.

Solution:

  • Change to better quality food. If the puppy is craving protein, you may not be feeding him a nutritious meal.
  • Redirecting with a leash can help. Take your puppy for bathroom breaks only on a leash.
  • Do not allow him to return to his stool.

  • You may also buy some meal supplements that make the stool less palatable for the puppy. Consult your vet and add the prescribed amount to your puppy’s food.
  • After the puppy has grown up a bit, this instinct will also pass.

6. Territorial Behavior Leading To Threat Barking

All dogs have basic territorial instincts, in some specific breeds, this train is even stronger. This kind of behavior can lead to threat barking, which, in turn, can lead to stress barking (we will discuss this behavior later in the article), which may lead to aggressive behaviors in some dogs. Hence, it is imperative that we curb this behavior from the very beginning.

Barking usually stops when the threat is taken away. But sometimes the dog will continue to bark.

Solution:

  • If your dog barks when there is a reason to bark in his territory, first praise him for the initial response. Follow this by telling him to SIT and redirect his energy into a new thought pattern.
  • Use obedience training to teach cues like NO, STAY and QUIET, and if your dog continues to bark even after the initial SIT exercise, then use the NO followed by SIT and redirect your dog to another activity that he may enjoy. Once the threat has passed, your dog will be quiet.
Dog SIT Exercise

Dog SIT Exercise

  • Prevent your dog from patrolling the premises. Close blinds or draw the curtains at times when you know that your dog will definitely bark. Doing this for about a month or 2 does take this behavior away in most cases.

7. Stress Barking

If your dog decides to keep barking even after the threat has passed, then it is stress barking. This is caused mostly due to the territorial instinct of your dog. Sometimes if we shout at, or reprimand our dog, when the dog is barking due to his territorial instinct, it can lead to a lot of stress for the dog. Since the dog is unable to just curb his natural instinct, our scolding the dog can lead to barking for extended periods of time, even after the territorial threat has passed.

Solution:

  • In such cases, you may need to train your dog for obedience commands and counter condition him towards these threats. The STAY command, for example, can be used to teach the dog to not approach the door, every time the doorbell rings.
Dog Training

Dog Training

  • Conditioning is required over a period of 2-3 months, so, the dog stops reacting to the stimuli that make him feel stressed; leading him to excessive barking.
  • Do not attach a negative stimulus when the dog is barking due to his territorial instinct. By shouting, using spray collars or bark collars, the dog gradually attaches a negative emotional response with the territorial instinct; leading him to excessive barking.

8. Possessiveness Towards Toys And Objects

Your ability to remove toys and objects from your dog’s possession will be determined by your leadership role with your dog. Using anger or a loud voice to intimidate your dog while trying to take something away from him will only make your dog more defensive and hold on to the toy harder. This can lead to aggression when the dog has claimed a certain object to be his.

Solution:

  • Always approach your dog in a slow and calm manner when he is playing with a toy.
  • Do not show threatening body language or make eye contact when trying to take something away from your dog.
Do Obedience Training

Do Obedience Training

  • Use obedience training to teach your dog to LEAVE/DROP IT on cue. The NO command can also be taught to teach the dog to back off when you see him approaching something that belongs to you. After all, prevention is better than cure.

9. Begging For Food

Do you have a dog who always tries to steal your food, or lounges at you when you’re eating? This kind of behavior can be solved quite easily.

Solution:

  • Never feed your dog from your plate. By doing this you may be solving the problem temporarily, but in the long run, you are only encouraging the begging behavior. The occasional bite of that sausage from your plate will only teach your dog to wait for the next one, and in most cases, bark, or show nuisance behaviors, to make you give him another piece.
A Dog Taking His Meal

A Dog Taking His Meal

  • If your dog is crate trained, it might be a lot easier for you. Simply crate your dog during meal time and after you finish your meal, take him out of the crate and reward him using his treats/dog food. This will teach him to be patient and wait for you to finish your meal so that he can get his reward for being a good boy!

10. Jumping On People During The Greeting

The first thing to remember here is that the greeting will remain the same whether inside the house or out for a walk. Once your dog is excited and starts jumping, it becomes difficult for him to get introduced to a new person. From here, it takes approximately 2-3 minutes for a dog to be completely calm again. This is when we can try again to introduce the dog to this new exciting person!

Solution:

  • There are 2 ways your dog can meet a person. If you have a calm dog, you can have the dog approach the person briefly and then immediately call the dog back to you and put him in a SIT position. Praise him for coming back to you.
  • If you have a hyperactive dog, it is best to keep the dog by your side in a SIT position and have the person approach you and the dog. Every time your dog gets up due to the excitement of wanting to meet the guest, you should ask your guest to go back to the original position. We should try this again until the dog keeps sitting while the guest approaches again; offering a low target to greet. Practice this activity as a training ritual till your dog learns that he will not be allowed to meet a new person unless he is either sitting or has all fours on the ground.
A Dog Being Trained

A Dog Being Trained

  • Always ask your guests to keep their hand at a low level so that your dog does not feel the urge to jump up on someone to get their smell.

11. Pulling On The Leash During The Walk

Some dogs like to control “the walk” when they’re out with their human. They’re either too full of energy and the human just cannot keep up, or just simply lack the focus to concentrate on where the person is, who is holding the other end of the leash.

Solution:

  • The HEEL command can be taught using obedience training. This will teach the dog to concentrate on you rather than everything else that goes on in the world during the walk. The HEEL walk is as much of a mental exercise as it is a physical one. Change pace, take turns, make a circle and the figure eight to try and keep your dog’s focus on you.
Dogs On A Walk

Dogs On A Walk

  • Along with the HEEL, also teach your dog the difference between when he is on a HEEL, and when he has been released and is not free to sniff and also relieve himself. Keep giving this release to your dog at regular intervals during the walk. This will teach him to respect the fact that when under the HEEL command, he should give his undivided attention to the person walking, and at the same time, a relief that he will be given time to sniff around and also relieve himself if he needs to.

12. Mouthing/Play Biting

As a puppy, your dog used his mouth to communicate his urges to you. This is perfectly normal and we accepted it when he was a little puppy. In fact, it was cute when the puppy used to nibble on to your hand and fingers. Now, that your dog is maturing, the mouth is getting scary. The teeth are sharp and a human could get injured even if the dog did not intend to.

Solution:

  • Establish an alternate communications system (obedience training). Obedience training is a communication bridge between a human and a dog.
  • Crate your dog or tie him using a leash and stop playing every time your dog’s teeth touch your skin. Removing the liberty of being with you after a certain action has been performed by the dog will teach him to avoid that particular act.
A Dog Tied With A Leash

A Dog Tied With A Leash

  • Once the dog has calmed down considerably, bring him back on the leash and continue playing with him.

This type of negative reinforcement consequence can certainly help your dog to understand what you will and will not accept from him.

13. Housebreaking Fail

It’s important to keep your expectations realistic. Puppyhood is a stage where we must be completely responsible for our puppies. Do not expect your puppy to behave like an adult dog. Know his limitations and work with them to help him into the next stage of learning.

Now, if you failed to housebreak your dog when they were a puppy, you may have a bit of a problem on your hands. Here are some tips to help you out of this messy situation.

Solution:

  • Establish a schedule and stay as close as possible to the same time, every day. Do this until your dog has learned the concept you’re trying to teach him. The tighter you remain on schedule, the faster the dog will develop a rhythm with an internal time clock for his own schedule.
  • Start your schedule from the moment the household wakes up. Immediately take your dog outside or to the designated area for elimination.
  • Write down your schedule and place it in an area where all members of the family can see it and adhere to it.
Dog Schedule

Dog Schedule

  • Teach the dog cue words like OUTSIDE and GO PEE/HURRY UP. OUTSIDE will become a question you will ask your dog if you suspect he may need to eliminate. If you’ve successfully linked the cue words OUTSIDE and HURRY UP, your dog will quickly run to the door in answer to your question; if he feels the need to relieve himself.
  • Always praise your dog right after he has relieved himself. You may also offer a food reward. This kind of positive reinforcement will teach the dog to adhere to his schedule.
  • Be prepared for setbacks. Never scold your dog, if you discover at a later time, that your dog has eliminated inside the house. This will not work and will make the dog fearful of you.
  • Always clean the area with an odor neutralizer like white vinegar. Common disinfectants do not take the smell away from the dog’s nose.

14. Food Aggression

Sometimes a puppy has been a part of a large litter. He may have had to fight with his siblings to be able to get to a teat on his mother or for food in a bowl; as he was weaned on to dog food. This competition can be stressful for the dog and may have led him to fight to claim his share of food. This can cause the dog to become possessive about his food and show signs of aggression if someone tries to approach him when he is eating.

Solution:

  • Sit quietly by your dog’s side when he is eating. Do this without disturbing him or making any eye contact.
  • After about 10-12 days of doing this, you may move on to the next level. Praise your dog for eating and touch him gently while praising him.
Dog Feeding

Dog Feeding

  • If your dog has allowed you to touch him while he is feeding, the next step is to add food into the bowl while the dog is eating. This will create a positive association with your hand.

15. Dog Eats Too Fast

If your puppy is eating too fast, it could be a sign that the dog is feeling threatened that someone might come and steal his food. This is mainly due to the amount of competition that the dog might have faced from his siblings while growing up. Now, that the puppy is in your home, he may continue to eat fast as it has become a habit. This is so severe in some dogs that they will end up vomiting the entire meal after they finish and is also not good for the dog’s digestive system.

Solution:

  • Simply divide his meals into two portions (use the same quantity, just split it into two). Give one portion and wait for him to finish before the second portion is presented. This will make your dog feel that food isn’t scarce and will condition him to eat slowly.
A Dog Taking His Meal

A Dog Taking His Meal

  • We also get products from pet stores that help with this behavior, or we can simply make one. The idea is to make a small hole in a plastic bottle and fill it with the amount of kibble that your dog eats during his meal. Give the bottle filled with food to your dog. He will be highly motivated to get the food out of the bowl but will only be able to get 1 or 2 pieces of kibble at a time. This way he will not only eat slow, but this is also a great exercise for your dog and tire him out.

16. Digging

Digging behavior in dogs can occur due to various reasons. The first step in treating inappropriate digging behavior is to determine the reason for digging.

  • Dogs dig to pursue prey
  • If a dog is feeling hot, he may dig to make a hole and lie in it to cool off
  • Some dogs dig because they have an acute sense of smell and might be curious to find out what it is
  • Dogs dig to bury and retrieve bones/food/toys
  • It might be caused due to lack of physical exercise

Solution:

  • To stop their digging habit, the prey should be removed.
  • To keep their digging habit away, dogs should be provided with a cool area or simply kept inside the house during hot summer days.
  • Dogs like beagles, need to be trained using their acute sense of smell. Unless they are mentally exhausted, they will continue to dig to satisfy their urge to seek and destroy.
A Dog Is Digging To Find A Prey

A Dog Is Digging To Find A Prey

  • Keeping an eye on your dog and using distance corrective techniques like turning on the sprinkler or pulling on an extended leash can teach the dog to avoid the digging site altogether.
  • If your dog is digging for no reason at all, it’s due to the lack of exercise and mental stimulation. Dogs who are not exercised well will direct their energy to dig in the yard and will continue to do so until they’re too tired to continue. So, make sure that your dog is exercised 3 times a day for 30 minutes at least.

17. Compulsive Disorders

Compulsive behaviors are often derived from normal behavior patterns but appear to be abnormal because they are excessive, intense, or performed out of context. Many compulsive behaviors arise spontaneously as a response to conflict or anxiety. In each case, it is essential to diagnose, rule out, or treat any medical condition that might contribute to the problem.

In dogs, compulsive behaviors include acral lick dermatitis, flank sucking, pacing, circling, fly snapping, or chasing unseen objects, freezing and staring, sucking, licking, chewing on objects/owner or other forms of self-mutilation.

Solution:

  • A complete medical check-up is the first step. Treatment may be necessary if the behavior poses a health risk to the dog.
Medical Check Up Of A Dog

Medical Check Up Of A Dog

  • For some dogs, compulsive behavior is a way to relieve stress or resolving conflict in their home environment. Find out what the underlying cause of stress or anxiety is and remove it. This will solve the compulsive behavior
  • Sufficient exercise and obedience training can help in some cases. Obedience training can help the owner to understand when inappropriate punishment to the dog can lead to the problem intensifying even further. This should be avoided at all costs.
  • Remove the opportunity. Make sure that your dog is well exercised before you leave him alone. If the dog is bored or not mentally stimulated, he may go back to the compulsive behavior.
  • Drug therapy can help pets with such behaviors the same way as it can help humans with obsessive-compulsive disorders.

18. Submissive Urination/Urinating Under Excitement

Some dogs will urinate during exciting situations like door greeting or while meeting new people. This is fairly common in puppies and may stop completely when they get matured.

Solution:

  • Never scold your dog for “happy pee”. It will only create stress in your dog’s mind while he is greeting new people. This will cause the submissive urination to continue and may also lead to territorial aggression when people visit your house in the future.
  • Reduce the level of stress associated with this experience.
  • Start taking your dog outside the house to greet your guest. A little dribble in the grass is better.
Barack Obama Introducing His Dog To A Guest

Barack Obama Introducing His Dog To A Guest

  • Condition your dog to not meet people immediately (as discussed earlier in the article). Once your dog is sufficiently calm, allow the guest to come up to the dog and meet him just for a couple of seconds. This will not over stimulate your dog, and hence, he will not pee at the spot.

19. Herding Instincts And Nipping At The Heels

Most dogs will show this kind of behavior when they are under stress. Under stress, a dog’s genetics may kick in to help relieve that stress. Hunting Dogs will hunt objects in the house when under stress while Herding Dogs may begin nipping at your heels or grab your child’s shirt’s sleeve or simply run around a table. If this behavior is not curbed, it may begin to alter your dog’s mental chemistry making simple redirection very difficult.

Solution:

  • Identify the cause of stress and eliminate it
  • Identify the problem early. If your puppy is showing signs of such behavior, mental stimulation in the form of obedience training might be required.
  • Redirecting excessive energy into agility training might be useful for working dog breeds. It will channelize the energy in the right direction.
Praise Your Dog

Praise Your Dog

  • Always make a negative situation positive. Learn to ignore problem behaviors and keep rewarding the good behaviors. Over time, your dog’s brain will be wired to perform only those actions that get him a positive outcome.

20. General Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity is usually a result of mental unrest. Not understanding “cause and effect” around the house and having too much freedom (not enough direction) are things that can cause mental unrest to your dog.

Solution:

  • Since this is a case of mental unrest versus physical unrest, obedience training for better direction is necessary. Just physical activity will not calm your dog.
  • Do not yell at your dog or reprimand him for his actions. Be it any action, you need to find the cause of it and eliminate it. Continuously shouting at your dog will increase his stress levels and cause him to get nervous and hyper.
Position Holding Exercise Of A Dog

Position Holding Exercise Of A Dog

  • Position holding exercises like the STAY command can help in conditioning your dog to remain calm. We need to have the patience to complete these exercises. Do not expect your dog to show more patience than what you have.

21. Separation Anxiety

An Alone Dog

An Alone Dog

 

The root cause of separation anxiety is usually improper socialization to separation. This behavior may also be triggered due to a panic response.

The panic response is almost entirely chemical. Drug therapy may be required to control this response.

Solution:

If this behavior is due to an emotional response, it has more to do with the way that we live with our dogs than anything else.

  • Change the expectation. Implement a leadership protocol that will teach the proper roles of man and dog to successfully treat this component of separation anxiety.
  • Desensitize your dog to be alone. Change the perception. Your dog probably feels that he is unable to cope without you, and if so is the case, your bond of love has crossed into the realm of dependence. To him, his security is totally dependent on you. This can be achieved by teaching the dog to STAY and over time teaching him to STAY for short periods while you are out of sight.
  • Have a second person present in the room while you go out of sight for a short period of time. This person can prevent your dog from following you. On your return to the room, praise your dog profusely and also offer a food reward.
  • If your dog gets up during this exercise, be calm and bring your dog to the original position. Shorten the length of time that you’re away for. Show patience and do not give up.
  • Crate training can be one of the most useful tools in this situation. If your dog considers his crate to be his safe zone, he will never be anxious when you’re away and have put him in his crate. If you haven’t trained your dog to be in a crate, perhaps now is a good time to start.
  • Practicing your obedience commands can help in building your dog’s confidence. Also, try agility training and swimming to tire your dog out before teaching him to be alone. If your dog is tired, he’ll most likely sleep peacefully while you are away.

  • Do not use any kind of remote corrections like a shock collar to stop him from barking when you are away. This will only create more negative emotions in your dog’s mind when he is left alone.

Each stage of a dog’s life has specific characteristics. If your approach towards the puppy raising is the same as child rearing, you can be a much more effective leader and have a well-behaved dog.

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