Common Dog Behaviour Problems


common dog problems

Dog behaviour problems can often be misunderstood by dog owners and can lead to them mishandling the situation. Although every dog is different, here we discuss some common dog behaviour problems and how to deal with them.

Barking
The majority of dogs are vocal and although howling, whining and barking are normal behaviour for a dog, excessive barking can be problematic. Before you address the issue, you should try and determine the reasoning behind this excessive barking. Some common types of barking include:
• as a warning
• they are playful and excited
• they want attention
• they are bored
• they are anxious
• they are near other dogs and responding to them

To control the excessive barking, it is important that you remain calm and patient and try to not get angry at your dog. Instead, try and teach them the “quiet” command. Also, address the underlying issue. If you believe they are anxious, it is important to determine what the triggers are.

Digging
It is the instinct of dogs to dig, but it can cause damage and be annoying for dog owners. There are many reasons why your dog may be digging a lot including:
• boredom
• anxiety
• hunting instinct
• trying to cool off
• trying to hide possessions like their toys
• to escape an area

Some breeds of dog, such as terriers, are also naturally more likely to dig. This needs to be taken into account when selecting your breed of dog.

Firstly, you should try and determine the reasoning behind your dog’s digging. If you believe it is sheer boredom then you must ensure that they are getting enough exercise and playtime. You could also try and set up a dedicated area of your garden for them to freely dig in, such as a sand pit. If you can train them to use this, you can protect the rest of your garden whilst still letting your dog enjoy their digging.

Chewing

Another natural instinct for a dog is to chew. Although chewing is normal, they should not be excessively chewing as it can end up in destructive behaviour. Excessive chewing can result from boredom, excess energy or anxiety.

Chewing is also common when a puppy is teething. As this is a natural process it shouldn’t be stopped entirely, however it is important to establish with your dog which items they are allowed to chew. When you are away from home, keep your dog in a crate or a confined area where they do not have the opportunity to be destructive.

If you notice your dog chewing something they shouldn’t, swap it straight away with their chew toy so that they start to associate chewing with their toys only.

Jumping Up

Puppies tend to jump up to their mothers and this behaviour is passed onto people when they are older. Whether they are excited or seeking attention, there are many reasons why dogs do this, however, this behaviour can be both annoying and potentially dangerous if not kept under control.
Although grabbing their paws or pushing the dog away may end the problem, it can send the wrong message to your dog. The fact that you have acknowledged their action may make them repeat it in the future as it got a response. Instead, you should try turning away and ignoring your dog. If necessary, walk away from the dog. Once your dog has calmed down say ‘hello’ calmly.

Chasing

Chasing items is due to the fact that dogs are natural hunters. So, whether your dog loves to chase cats, other dogs, people, animals or even cars, it is normal. However, it can also be dangerous. In order to stop something bad from happening you can do the following:
• train your dog to come when it is called or to leave on command
• use a dog whistle to get your dog’s attention when necessary
• if you know what usually triggers your dog’s behaviour then try and avoid these things. For example, some dogs love to chase joggers in the park. If this is the case, try and find a quieter route for your walks
• if your dog is prone to chasing and there are triggers nearby, ensure they are kept on their lead.

Biting
Dogs bite for many reasons. When they are puppies, they use biting to help explore their environment. As the dog grows up, they may also bite for other reasons such as:
• they are afraid
• they are feeling defensive
• they feel sick or are in pain
• they are defending their environment
• their predatory instinct is kicking in

Owners need to show their dogs that biting is not acceptable by teaching them bite inhibition. This is ensuring the dog doesn’t bite too hard and is something they should start to be taught by their mothers and siblings but should be continued by their owners. As all dogs have the potential to bite and bite hard, it is important to control this behaviour to avoid any injuries.

Undertaking proper training and socialisation is important to keep this behaviour under control.

Although these problems, on the whole, can be addressed successfully with some training, if the issues persist or you believe your dog may be ill, it is vital you see a vet in case it is a medical issue that is causing these behaviour problems.

Understanding the issue thoroughly first is half the challenge. A lot of the issues we have discussed here are natural dog behaviours, however, they can become a problem when they are occurring too regularly. Once you know why your dog is behaving the way it does, you can help solve the problem. Although there are methods you can try at home, getting the help of a professional trainer can help you identify and solve the problems faster and more efficiently. A course in obedience training can help tackle these issues head-on and help prevent them in the future.

About the author

Dr Shahad Mohammed
Veterinary Physiotherapist
National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists