Though tamed as long as 10,000 years ago, our dogs are descendants of wild animals. Our dogs’ antics make us laugh, smile, and enjoy their companionship. Unfortunately, some of our dogs develop behaviors that aren’t as pleasant. While most dogs aren’t “perfect,” some can develop behaviors that are inconvenient or even dangerous. How do we combat this? By training our dogs early on, we can hope to mitigate some of these behaviors before they even begin. For other, older dogs, we have to retrain their brains and bodies to show more appropriate responses to triggering situations. Here are a few common dog behavior problems and how you can solve them.
Common Dog Behavior Problems
Pretty much all dogs bark, but the degree and reason vary. Barking can be an incredibly problematic behavior, so how do we train a dog not to bark?
Vocalizations are part of how dogs communicate with each other and with you. They may bark, howl, whine, or make other noises to get their point across. To correct a barking problem, we must first figure out the reason our dogs are over-vocalizing. Here are a few reasons dogs might bark:
- As a warning or alert, i.e. when someone is at your door.
- Seeking attention when you are otherwise occupied.
- Because they are bored.
- Other dogs are barking and they are responding.
- During bouts of play or when they are excited.
- An event or situation is causing anxiety or fear.
The root cause of your dog’s incessant barking is essential to training your dog not to bark. In some situations, it’s best to learn to divert your dog’s attention away from the thing making them bark, whether it’s another dog, a person at the door, etc. Another option is to teach commands for “speak” and “quiet,” which shows them when it’s ok to vocalize and when they need to be silent.
Chewing is a natural pastime for dogs. In fact, chewing is important for your dog’s dental hygiene and can be a great way to alleviate stress. Dogs chew out of boredom, curiosity, to burn off excess energy, or as puppies when they are teething. Chewing can, however, become a destructive problem. Puppies and adult dogs can get ahold of items in your home that they shouldn’t be chewing on, like shoes, remotes, or furniture legs.
Encourage your dog to chew on the “right” items. Provide your pup with human-approved chew toys like kongs, bones, antlers, etc. If you find your dog with an item they shouldn’t chew on, remove it, and replace it with an approved toy to gnaw instead. In addition, discourage chewing by doing the following:
- Figure out what toys they like; my dogs are especially fond of deer antlers.
- Keep your personal items tucked away in closets, on high shelves, anywhere your dog cannot get to them.
- When you are not home, train your dog to enjoy being in their crate.
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so that they do not resort to chewing out of boredom.
Begging is a dog behavior problem where pups use their eyes, bodies, or voices to request (or even demand) human food from our plates. Many dog owners, whether they know it or not, encourage this begging behavior. Not only can human food cause your dog digestive upset and obesity issues, but it can also create behavior problems. Dogs love food; many dogs will eat until they are physically sick. We can love our dogs in other ways besides giving them food from the table so no matter how cute their puppy eyes are, resist the urge to feed your dog from your plate.
To counteract begging tendencies, consider teaching your dog a “place” command, where they go to a designated place, such as their bed, and remain there until you release them. Have them stay in this spot until you are done eating. If this doesn’t work, try putting your dog in another room while you eat. You can reward your dog with a nice (dog) treat after you and your family have finished your meal.
Many dogs, especially young ones, have a dog behavior problem of jumping up on people. This is a natural behavior that stems from puppies jumping up to greet their mothers that then translates to jumping on people when they arrive. Dogs also jump up when they get excited or want to get to something in someone’s hand.
Jumping up on you is a dog’s way of seeking attention. Though some people suggest pushing the dog down, or even kneeing them in the chest, it’s best to simply ignore the behavior. When your dog jumps up on you, turn away and ignore them. Do not engage with your dog until he or she has relaxed and is still. Then, you can calmly reward your dog with attention and affection.
Dogs nip or bite for a wide variety of reasons. They can be playing, defending their territory, afraid, in pain or sick, or even bite because they are motivated by their prey drive. Puppies nip as they explore their new surroundings. Any dog that has teeth can bite.
As your puppy grows, it’s important to teach them that biting isn’t ok. One way we do this is by imitating their mother’s corrective nip. When your puppy nips you, simply use your thumb and the side of your pointer finger to give them a soft “nip” back. If your adult dog has an issue with nipping or biting that is not driven by fear or aggression, but rather by playfulness, you can teach them in much the same way as a puppy.
For dogs who bite out of fear, defensiveness, or predatory instinct, it’s best to consult with a professional dog trainer. They can help you to develop a training plan to desensitize your dog to whatever is causing their biting issues.
Solving Dog Behavior Problems, From Problem Pup To Proud Parent
It’s up to us to teach our dogs how to best fit into our worlds. They depend on us for care, love, and even training. The best way to solve dog behavior problems is to address them as early as possible. Consistent training, patience, and a positive attitude are key ingredients to raising a well-behaved canine companion.