Dog behavior problems are often misunderstood or mishandled by dog owners. Perhaps you are new to dog ownership, considering getting a dog, or just wish to help your dog with a challenging issue. Thoroughly understanding the most common dog behavior problems is the first step to solving and preventing them. A solid foundation of obedience training will help you prevent or better control many of these issues.
Most dogs vocalize in one way or another. They may bark, howl, whine and more. Excessive barking is considered a behavior problem.
Before you can correct excessive barking, determine why your dog is vocalizing in the first place. The most common types of barking are:
- Warning or alert
- Playfulness and excitement
- Responding to other dogs
Chewing is a natural action for all dogs. In fact, chewing is an important activity for most dogs; it’s just part of the way they are wired. However, excessive chewing can quickly become a behavior problem if your dog causes destruction. The most common reasons dogs chew include
- Puppy teething
- Boredom or excess energy
- Curiosity (especially puppies)
Encourage your dog to chew on the right things by providing plenty of appropriate chew toys. Keep personal items away from your dog. When you are not home, keep your dog crated or confined to an area where less destruction can be caused.
If you catch your dog chewing the wrong thing, quickly distract your dog with a sharp noise. Then, replace the item with a chew toy. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure your dog gets plenty of exercises so it can wear off energy and be stimulated in that way rather than turning to chew.
If given the chance, most dogs will do some amount of digging; it’s a matter of instinct. Certain dog breeds, like terriers, are more prone to digging because of their hunting histories. In general, most dogs dig for these reasons:
- Boredom or excess energy
- Anxiety or fear
- Hunting instinct
- Comfort-seeking (such as nesting or cooling off)
- Desire to hide possessions (like bones or toys)
- To escape or gain access to an area
It can get rather frustrating if your dog likes to dig up your yard. Try and determine the cause of the digging, then work to eliminate that source. Give your dog more exercise, spend more quality time together, and work on extra training. If digging seems inevitable, set aside an area where your dog can freely dig, like a sandbox. Train your dog that it is acceptable to dig in this area only.
Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly discussed dog behavior problems. Manifestations include vocalization, chewing, inappropriate urination and defecation, and other forms of destruction that occur when a dog is separated from its owner.2 Not all of these actions are the result of separation anxiety. Signs of true separation anxiety include:
- The dog becomes anxious when the owner prepares to leave.
- Misbehavior occurs in the first 15 to 45 minutes after the owner leaves.
- The dog wants to follow the owner around constantly.
- The dog tries to be touching the owner whenever possible.
True separation anxiety requires dedicated training, behavior modification, and desensitization exercises. Medication may be recommended in extreme cases.
Jumping up is a common and natural behavior in dogs. Puppies jump up to reach and greet their mothers. Later, they may jump up when greeting people. Dogs may also jump up when excited or seeking an item in the person’s hands. A jumping dog can be annoying and even dangerous.
There are many methods to stop a dog’s jumping, but not all will be successful. Lifting a knee, grabbing the paws, or pushing the dog away might work in some cases, but for most dogs, this sends the wrong message. Jumping up is often attention-seeking behavior, so any acknowledgment of your dog’s actions provides an instant reward, reinforcing the jumping.
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