Behavioral Problems In Dogs

Most dogs that are trained in basic rules from a young age happily integrate into their household. However, some dogs may develop unwanted behaviors that require further training or specialized help.

DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR

Chewing is a natural behavior in puppies and dogs, but when it becomes excessive or is targeted toward something inappropriate it can quickly become a source of tension between owner and dog.

Sometimes dogs exhibit destructive behavior as an outlet because they are experiencing physical pain or suffer from separation anxiety a condition characterized by extreme distress during the absence of their owner.

Dogs can be affected by anxiety disorders, however supportive and happy their homelife. You should seek your vet’s advice or consult a professional behaviorist if your dog suffers from anxiety.

Occasionally, destructive behavior such as chewing or digging can become a problem in otherwise healthy, adult dogs. This is often a sign that the dog is not being sufficiently stimulated, and it may help to provide him with an acceptable outlet for this natural behavior such as allowing him to dig for treats in a sandpit.

This will only work in dogs where all of their other needs, such as physical exercise, nutritional requirements, and social interaction, are met.

The first stage of training is to put the desired behavior on cue, by associating a command word with the behavior. For example, a dog that chews furniture can be taught to chew special toys containing food instead.

Offer your dog a toy with treats hidden inside and praise him as he begins to investigate it, telling him “good boy, chew” in a clear voice. It is vital that you make some temporary changes to restrict your dog’s opportunities to perform the unwanted behavior, such as preventing chewing by using a bitter spray to make the furniture taste unpleasant.

When you have made a good association between the cue word and the correct behavior, you have a channel of communication when your dog misbehaves. Don’t punish your dog, since he is not being bad he is displaying a natural behavior.

If you catch him chewing the furniture, simply interrupt him (for example, with a hand clap) and hand him his chew toy, saying “good boy, chew.”

EXCESSIVE BARKING

Barking is a totally typical dog behavior; however, excessive barking can quickly become a problem within a household. Bear in mind that dogs sometimes bark when shut in a room or in the yard for long periods, and allowing more freedom will often result in reduced barking.

The easiest way to control problem barking is to train your dog to bark on command and follow this with teaching “be quiet” on command as well. Start by doing something that would normally cause your dog to bark, such as waving a toy. Insert the command to “speak” just before he barks.

Praise him for barking and then approach him and hold a treat in front of his nose to stop him from barking. Then simply say the word “quiet” and feed him the treat. Incorporate training sessions into play, and end with a fun game of tug-of-war or something similar. Don’t use this training, however, if your dog is barking out of aggression; in this case, a professional behaviorist will need to be involved.

JUMPING UP

A common complaint from dog owners, and the one problem they are most guilty of creating themselves, is their dog jumping up at people. Puppies naturally try to get closer to people’s face and hands, which they recognize as sources of human affection.

It is natural for people to encourage this because it seems cute and fun when puppies do it. However, problems develop when this behavior continues in adult dogs. Teaching young puppies not to jump up from the very first day you bring them home can help you prevent this.

However, if you have an older dog that already habitually jumps up at people you will need to train him that this is unacceptable. This can be as simple as following the instructions to teach a “sit” (see p.324) so that he cannot jump up.

If the urge to jump up is irresistible to your dog, it may be necessary to set up specific training sessions. To do this, put him on a short leash and get a friend to walk slowly toward you.

When your dog is sitting obediently, your friend can approach and give him praise but must move away again if he gets overexcited and jumps up. As training progresses, you should be able to take off the leash but your dog will still need to be reminded to “sit.” Make sure that everyone enforces the rule or your training will fail. Do not become complacent about praising your dog for sitting obediently or he is very likely to jump up as a way of getting attention again.

RUNNING OFF

All dogs love to run freely and play, so it is important that your dog will return to your call when off his leash you may meet someone who isn’t confident around dogs, or another dog that is unfriendly.

Begin recall training in a distraction-free environment such as your home or yard. Start by practicing “come when called” at home (see p.328). Once your dog will return to you quickly, move the training outside. Walk your dog on his normal leash, but have a light, long-line attached as well and tuck it away in your pocket. When you get to a safe, open space you can make a big show of taking off your dog’s leash. He will assume he is off the leash, but in fact you have hold of the end of the long-line. Leave the line dragging along the ground and don’t pull it taut. Now call your dog’s name, followed by “come,” stand up tall and wave your arms with a big smile on your face. Your dog should always want to come back to you, because he knows he will get treats or praise every time he does. Keep the training varied—ask your dog to recall a number of times and be totally unpredictable about when you call him. Make sure that you always reward the recall in some way.

AGGRESSION

A natural canine response when a dog is not comfortable in a situation is to become aggressive. However, for pet dogs to be trustworthy in all situations they must understand that aggression is not an acceptable response toward humans or other dogs.

A good owner needs to take note of when a dog is becoming distressed and help him be more comfortable in that situation, to reduce the risk of an aggressive response.

Most happy and socialized dogs are not aggressive other than in rare cases where they are in pain or surprised while sleeping.Never challenge an aggressive dog. If a dog is growling at you, he is telling you that he is unhappy and wants you to move away.

Any harsh treatment will only result in the dog becoming more aggressive over time as he feels the need to defend himself. Do not attempt to remedy an aggression problem without professional help. First ensure you put control measures in place, such as keeping your dog muzzled and on a leash when out, and then speak to your vet about getting a professional, accredited dog behavior.

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