In many ways, dogs are like our children. They rely on us for food and comfort, we love them unconditionally and they manage to brighten up our days without fail. But, like children, there are times when their behaviour leaves a lot to be desired, and they need to be taught right from wrong. Some of these bad habits and abnormal dog behaviours are deep-rooted and have been developed from puppyhood, whilst others they may have picked along the way. Some might be caused by serious issues that your dog may not even be in control of, so simple punishment won’t fix the problem. It’s important to understand your dog and acknowledge why they might be acting out and look out for the odd behaviour signs.
Problem 1: Aggression
When we hear the term ‘aggression’, our minds tend to jump to horror stories of dog’s attacking and mauling people, however, most aggressive traits are much more subtle than that. Regardless, they can still be very dangerous if not corrected. So, how can you tell if your pooch is displaying some aggressive natures? Perhaps they growl when you tell them off or try to get them off the bed? Do they seem to ‘guard’ their food bowl and toys and bare teeth whenever you come near them? Or maybe they bark and pull towards other dogs on the walk in an unfriendly manner? These are all signs of aggression. If these tendencies are ignored, it is likely that one day, this will result in your dog causing a bite or injury. If you have noticed any of these traits in your pet, immediate action is imperative.
How to fix it
Often times, aggression is caused by a negative experience. Has anything happened to them that you think could have caused their aversion to a certain object, individual or situation? Look out for your dog’s triggers. Are they perfectly friendly to humans but can’t stand being around other dogs? Or do they react negatively when you reach for their collar? Try to determine what could be causing their aggressive behaviour. Positive reinforcement is also recommended, every time your pooch is well behaved, praise them and give them a treat. The better you make them feel, the more they will begin to act in a desirable way in order to please you and reap the rewards.
Be aware that creating boundaries and limits may at first cause your already aggressive dog to become more aggressive, so if the issue is serious, seek help from a professional dog trainer. Ask your vet for a list of local dog trainers in your area that specialise in dealing with aggressive behaviour.
Problem 2: Excessive Barking and Whining
This problem is extremely annoying and could even cause you and your neighbours to fall out! Your dog barks all through the day and all night and it seems that no matter how much you chastise them, they just won’t stop. What you might not have realised is that telling your dog off could actually be exacerbating the issue.
You might be at your wit’s end with their behaviour, but yelling at them certainly will not help. This is because when you raise your voice and snap, this comes across to your doggo as a ‘bark’, and pleading will appear to them as ‘whining’. When you ‘bark back’, they perceive this as a message that they should bark louder in response, which is the exact opposite result you want!
How to fix it
Keep in mind that although it’s irritating to we humans, barking comes very natural to dogs as a way of communication, and many of them enjoy making sure their voices are heard. Again, it’s crucial to try to determine what may be the underlying cause of their barking. Do they only bark when they hear loud noises or maybe it happens at night time when you leave them alone in their bed? If it seems to be an anxiety issue, try to make them as comfortable as possible. Make their bed a safe space for them to retreat to when they feel stressed – be sure it is cosy and perhaps even add an old item of clothing with your scent on in there for extra security.
Instead of yelling at your dog when they are noisy, why not teach them to bark on command? It might seem counterproductive, but it is actually a way of controlling their barking. When your dog is having a barking fit, repeat the word ‘speak’ or ‘bark’. When they finally stop, reward them and say a command such as ‘quiet’ or ‘shush’ in an encouraging tone. Repeat this and you should be able to use the quiet command next time they decide to bark the whole house down. If this doesn’t work, you could consider looking into a bark collar. There are plenty of safe bark collars on the market that use a non-cruel static stimulation that occurs when your dog does several consecutive barks.
Problem 3: Chewing
Are you sick of coming in from a long day at work to find that Fido has destroyed your brand new shoes or massacred the sofa? Excessive chewing can be down to a number of issues, such as boredom, anxiety and teething, but the simple fact of the matter is, all dogs need to chew. It’s your job to provide your pooch with safe chew toys.
How to fix it
The first thing to do is to not let your dog roam around the house unsupervised. If the problem is very severe and your pooch can’t help but chew everything in sight, you might want to consider crating them, but if you can, let them loose in one room so they don’t get bored. Ensure all items that you don’t want to be chewed up are out of reach and provide your pup with a long-lasting, preferably flavoured chew toy that will spark their attention. There are many chew toys on the market to choose from, so why not select a few so your doggy has plenty of choice? Take a look at our guide of the best chew dogs, guaranteed to satisfy your pup’s toothy habits.
Problem 4: Pulling
Let’s face it – a walk with a pulling dog is no fun for anyone. You find yourself dragged halfway across the street, whilst your poor pet practically chokes themselves by pulling too far ahead. Not only does this make for a less than leisurely walk, it also could potentially dangerous. Your dog does not have a firm grip on the rules of the road and might end up pulling both themselves and you straight into oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, if your dog has been getting away with pulling on the lead for a long time, it will be more difficult to train this out of them, so it’s definitely best to nip it in the bud as a young pup. However, with plenty of perseverance, you can teach your old dog a new trick!
How to fix it
If you can catch this behaviour early on, it will be much easier to correct. Start off by selecting a good quality dog leash or harness that will encourage them not to pull. For example, there are specially designed dog harnesses that make it more difficult for them to pull and give you more control over them. A shock absorbing leash will also give your arm muscles a rest.
Problem 5: Separation Anxiety
Unfortunately, this is quite a common problem. Separation anxiety is the term given to the abnormal behaviour a dog displays when they are left alone. This can manifest itself in many ways, such as crying uncontrollably, chewing and destroying surroundings, urinating inside and many other symptoms. Understanding dog behaviour is important, you must never tell your anxious dog off as they can’t acting this way.
How to fix it
It’s not easy to resolve this issue, but there are a few things you can do to help your pooch feel more comfortable. Start off by leaving the house, be sure your dog is in a safe space such as their bed or crate with their favourite toy to offer them an added sense of security. You could also turn the TV on or play some soothing classical music to calm their nerves. Try not to make a big deal over your leaving. Walk around the house, peeping through the window and observing your pup’s reaction – just make sure they don’t see you! They may be upset, so allow them some time to calm down.
Once you’ve been out of the house for over five minutes and they are settled, enter the house as normal. Do not make a fuss of your arrival, just greet them calmly and nonchalantly. Give them their dinner or take them for a walk, so that your dog knows that even though you have been away, you can still take care of them. Repeat this method for a few weeks, slowly increasing the amount of time you are gone. If the problem does not seem to be improving, get in touch with a trainer who will be able to get your doggo on track.
Problem 6: Stealing
Is your dog a thief; sneaking up and nabbing food off your plate, socks from your drawer and the newspaper straight from your grasp? The best way to combat this naughty behaviour is, quite simply, make sure you don’t leave anything alluring out where your devious dog can reach it. Make sure that they have plenty of exciting toys to play with so they are less likely to seek out something they shouldn’t.
How to fix it
When your pooch does rob something, don’t be tempted to chase them, they’ll think you are playing a game with them. Instead, call their name and them to leave it, firmly but unemotionally. Take caution, if you feel their aggression rising, back away and leave them be. If this is a problem, consult a dog behaviour specialist.
Problem 7: Jumping Up
You may not mind it when your beloved doggy jumps up and smothers you with kisses, but the truth is, it’s not polite behaviour, and many people will not appreciate it. For instance, people who are fearful of dogs will not be happy if one suddenly comes bounding up to them and knocks them off their feet. It is also seen as dominant behaviour and should not be encouraged.
How to fix it
This can be fixed with simple training. Get a friend to knock on the door and bring your pet towards it on the leash, asking them to sit. Once they do so, proceed to open the door. However, if they refuse to sit, don’t open the door until they do. Make sure your friend has a couple of treats in their hand and get to the command your dog to sit. If they do, your friend will reward them with a treat. Hold the leash tightly, ensuring your dog cannot jump up.
Problem 8: Playing Rough
This habit may have been picked up during puppyhood when your fur baby would play with their littermates. If your pooch is not playing nice with other dogs, while many dogs are able to handle themselves, it could lead to aggression issues. Many dogs play fight and lunge during play, but if they begin harming or frightening others, it’s time to acknowledge this problem. In addition to this, you certainly do not want your pet to start playing too rough with humans. They may be nipping at your hand or jumping up. When you notice this abnormal behaviour, its crucial to act fast.
How to fix it
You should not allow your pup to play unless he is settled and willing to be friendly. The best treatment is prevention, and if you can sense your doggy is starting to get a bit antsy, calmly take them away from the situation. If they are playing with you and start to become overzealous, cease moving, do not make any noises and stand still like a statue. When they have calmed them, take them out of the room for a timeout. Remember, play is only permitted if it is managed properly. If the training doesn’t seem to be working, you might want to consider visiting the vet and speaking to them about neutering.
Problem 9: Digging
Picture this – you’ve just planted a row of beautiful, prize-winning roses in your garden. Pleased with your handy work, you pop indoors to make yourself a much-deserved cup of tea. No sooner have you finished your brew, you step back outside and gape in horror at the destruction you’re met with. Your ‘darling’ dog has dug up every single one of your roses and destroyed your vegetable patch to boot. Your at your wit’s end, but what can you do?
How to fix it
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to train this behaviour out of your dog. The fact of the matter is, digging is a natural canine instinct, just like barking and chewing. The best way to tackle this issue is to choose a place if your garden that is out of the way and won’t do much damage if they dig it up. Make this their digging spot and praise them when they use it. Why not build a sandbox for them? You can encourage them to use this designated area by burying something exciting like a treat or a treasured toy.
If your doggy ‘digs’ indoors – meaning they scratch at the floor, this could mean they are feeling bored or nervous. Created a safe confined space for them with plenty of chews and toys for them to play with, or you could always take them outside to their digging area.
Problem 10: Urinating Indoors
It’s a problem quite a lot of dog owner have to put up with – as soon you walk in the door, your pooch lie down and urinates on the floor. Some put this down to excitement, but the flopping down action suggests that this is submission behaviour. So, why is your pup doing this, and how can you help them?
How to fix it
The first thing to do is to visit the vet and check that your pet does not have an underlying health issue. Once they’ve been given the green light, it’s time for you to start training. Instead of leaving your dog loose around the house when you are out, put them in a confined space where they can feel safe and secure. When you do enter the house, don’t rush straight to them and when you go to greet them, do this as calmly as possible. Let your dog outside as soon as you can, so they can relieve themselves. Even if they urinate as you’re heading outside, don’t show any reaction, just keep going outside. The key to getting this issue sorted it to go through each procedure as unemotionally as you can. It may take some time, but together, you and your best friend will get there.