5 Common Dog Behavior Issues and How to Fix Them
All dogs are Good Dogs. But no matter how perfect your pooch or diligent your training, behavior problems may crop up.
The good news? Many of the most common (and frustrating) behavioral issues are well understood by dog trainers and are relatively easy to troubleshoot.
Whether you have a bossy barker, a shameless beggar or a prolific chewer, more peaceful days are possible. Here, Karen Reese – a Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer and behavior manager at Operation Kindness animal shelter in Texas – breaks down how to solve five bad habits.
Some dogs bark – and bark, and bark, and bark – when they want something, whether it’s food, a toy, or your attention. "If your dog has trained you to respond to their barking demands, it may be time that you train them; there are nicer ways to ask for things that they want," says Reese.
One of the most common mistakes pet parents make is yelling at excessive barkers. “Your dog will most likely think ‘Hey, now you are barking, too! We are barking together!’ and they will keep barking,” explains Reese.
Instead of barking back, try the following:
Ignore the barking. Don’t look at or talk to your dog while they bark. If they continue, leave the room. This will teach them that barking makes you disappear instead of giving in to their demands. Once they stop barking, give them the attention they want.
Prioritize exercise. Active dogs are happy dogs. If your dog is enjoying enough physical activity, they are less likely to engage in attention-seeking behaviors
Provide plenty of toys. Chew toys have two benefits: They keep barking mouths busy and offer entertainment.
Some dogs, notes Reese, are simply more prone to barking. Hunting hounds, for example, were bred to bark when they discovered a scent. Recently adopted dogs may bark more often because they’re accustomed to noisy shelters. For these pups, patience is key.
Dog Jumping Up
Have a jumper? You’re not alone. Although considered rude by human standards, paws-on greetings are the norm in the canine world.
“Jumping is a natural greeting and play behavior for dogs,” says Reese. “Affectionate face greetings are a deeply ingrained behavior from puppyhood, so it’s up to you to teach your dog how to greet appropriately.
Follow these steps for success:
Practice calm greetings. When arriving home, don’t set a bad example by greeting your dog excitedly. Instead, ignore your dog until they mellow out, then kneel down to say hello calmly.
Reward good manners. When your dog doesn’t jump up, reward them with praise, treats, and/or toys. Reinforcing good behavior is just as important as discouraging bad habits!
Prepare your guests. Many people can’t help playing into a dog’s enthusiastic greeting. However, if guests in your home respond positively to jumpy greetings, your dog will be confused. When possible, explain your training goals before they arrive.
Destructive Dog Chewing
Inappropriate chewing can be costly for you and dangerous for your dog. “Dogs naturally use their mouths to explore the world around them, but it’s important to teach them the things that they should and shouldn’t chew on,” says Reese.
Luckily, most destructive chewing is relatively easy to direct. Most of the time, offering a variety of quality, pet-safe chew toys will do the trick. "It's important to consider how your dog interacts with the items that they are chewing on, since this will tell you which types of toys they might enjoy most," she says.
Dogs who love couch cushions will likely enjoy chewing on stuffed dog toys, says Reese. Have a heavy chewer? Try something more durable, such as a KONG toy, she suggests. Some KONG toys offer treat-dispensing features, which can further engage dogs and keep their teeth focused on the task at hand.
If your dog engages in destructive behaviors while you’re away from home, it could signal separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can be a more severe problem and should be addressed with your veterinarian or trainer.
Occasional digging is just plain fun. But if your dog is tearing up your yard, they’re likely bored. “Dogs that dig may not be able to find anything more entertaining to do, so it’s up to us to make sure that they have more appropriate ways to outlet their energy,” says Reese.
Spend quality time in the yard. Being outside alone gets boring. Join your dog in the yard and play games together, work on training exercises, or offer toys when they begin to dig. They'll likely prefer your attention!
Increase exercise. Digging can be a way to burn off excess energy. Make sure your dog is getting daily walks and plenty of exercise.
Build a ‘dig box.’ Some breeds – especially those used to hunt small animals – are naturally drawn to digging. These pups may benefit from a "dig box," which is essentially a digging zone or sandbox for dogs.
Begging for table food is common, and for a good reason – many of us can’t resist those pleading puppy eyes. Instead of training your dog, you’ll have to train yourself to ignore their whimpers. “If demanding behavior has worked in the past, don’t be surprised if they beg harder,” warns Reese.
Consistency is key, says Reese. Make sure the entire family knows the new policy and isn’t sneaking snacks under the table. Once your pup goes a whole meal without begging, reward them with plenty of positive praise.
When giving your dog treats or feeding meals, instill good manners by asking them to “sit” first. “Teaching your dog to ‘say please’ is a way of living with your dog that creates trust and confidence,” says Reese.
Dog Behavior Training
Many common behavior problems can be easily addressed at home. However, if problems persist, consider professional training. Not only can training improve manners, but it’s a great way to bond with your pet and learn new skills together!
When searching for a trainer, make sure they use positive, reward-based methods. Collaborative and conflict-free, reward-based training is the most effective way to motivate your dog and strengthen your relationship.