Every pet parent dreams of owning an obedient, loving, playful dog; however, few dogs are without some type of behavioral issue. Behavioral problems ranging from simple theft of socks to violent aggression can occur in any breed, and must be addressed quickly to prevent injuries to humans or other animals. Determining the root of the issue and modifying problem behavior is the most thorough way to solve behavioral issues.
Schedule your dog for a complete physical with your veterinarian. Many behavioral problems have roots in pain or illness that can be cleared up through proper veterinary care.
Observe the dog quietly and note what’s going on around him when the problem behavior starts. If he’s whining and cowering when a thunderstorm approaches, he may have a fear of loud noises. If he picks up a shoe and starts chewing after he’s been inside all day, he may be chewing out of frustration and boredom.
Eliminate obvious triggers for problem behavior. For example if giving your dog bones when he's out in the yard creates digging behavior to bury and find bones, don't give your dog bones when he's outdoors.
Spay or neuter the dog to prevent humping and other dominance problems. Humping behaviors are less of a sexual issue and more of a display of dominance, and altering the dog reduces hormone levels that may cause issues.
Keep a close eye on your dog to avoid accidents in the house. One of the most common behavioral issues is not going outside to potty, but this can be avoided with proper training and observation. Start the potty training process as soon as you bring the puppy home, containing himr in a small room. Take the puppy outside after every meal and nap time, and praise him when he potties outside. Crate the puppy at night and take him out as soon as you hear him whine or bark to prevent accidents. Whining is an attempt to communicate, so don't ignore it. If you have an adult dog with marking issues, have the dog examined by his veterinarian for urinary or incontinence issues. For dogs with a clean bill of health, monitor water intake and take the dog out every 30 minutes to minimize accidents. Clean soiled spots thoroughly to remove odors that may entice the dog to remark the area. Crate the dog when you cannot watch him closely, and let him out as soon as you return to prevent him from going in the crate.
Discourage your dog from nipping and biting during play time. Mouthing is natural for puppies as they learn to establish their place in the pack. It can be an ongoing problem if it is not corrected once the puppy is weaned. When your dog starts to chew on you, firmly say “no bite” and give him a proper chew toy. Repeat this exchange every time he mouths on you, and he will learn to chew his own toys when he feels the urge to bite.
Confine your dog to a crate or small room while you eat, to prevent begging. Dogs often drool, whine and bark in an effort to obtain food from their owners during meal time. Giving the dog food reinforces that negative behavior. To curb the begging issue, give the dog a bone or chew toy stuffed with dog treats to keep him occupied while you eat.
Stop your dog from jumping up on you by providing him with positive attention on your terms. Dogs frequently jump up on their owners out of excitement and need for attention, but should not be praised for jumping. Ignore him when he jumps up on you, or turn and walk away to discourage jumping. Tell the dog to sit. when he's sitting calmly, bend over and pet him as a reward. Making him sit immobilizes him, making it difficult for him to jump up and get your attention.
Provide your dog with plenty of exercise. Dogs often resort to behavioral issues such as barking, chewing, digging and destruction due to excessive amounts of energy, and these problems can be greatly reduced with exercise. Walk the dog daily, and toss a ball or other toy around the yard to burn off your dog's energy. Dog sports such as agility, flyball and obedience are excellent forms of exercise for bored dogs.
Contain an aggressive dog to prevent injuries. Dog aggression is a complex issue, and may be directed toward humans or other dogs, but keeping the dog contained in a place he feels safe will minimize issues. If he is striking out against other dogs that invade his personal area, keep his crate and toys in a room that no other animals have access to. Feed him away from other animals to avoid food aggression attacks, and slowly introduce him to new animals at a neutral location, such as a dog park. If your dog is aggressive toward new people, take him on short excursions to the pet store or other safe public areas. Slip a soft muzzle over his nose to prevent accidental bites, and introduce him to new people. Walk the dog by your side near strange people, praising him when he remains calm. Work with him frequently until he no longer cowers or growls at new people.
Stay calm and quiet when leaving and entering your home if your dog barks when you leave. Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety, and making a fuss when leaving only exacerbates the issue. Place the dog in his crate with a treat or toy, close the door, and leave quietly without talking to the dog. Upon returning, open the crate quietly, and ignore the dog until he calms down.
Don't smack your dog when he misbehaves. Negative reinforcement such as physical punishment will scare the dog and can cause injuries.
Keep a basketful of toys near the dog's bed. He can pick out his own toys when he wants to play, instead of tearing up the newspaper.
If you are unsure about handling an aggressive dog, hire a professional behaviorist. You will learn how to handle the dog properly as he is trained, reducing his level of aggression and increasing your confidence to keep you both safe.
Items You Will Need
- Dog treats
- CNN.com: Solve Common Pet Behavior Problems
- Lane County Animal Services: Solving Behavior Problems in Dogs
- The Humane Society of the United States: Urine-Marking Behavior: How to Prevent It
- WebMD: How to Stop Your Dog From Begging at the Table
- Petfinder: How to Stop Dog Jumping
- PAW Rescue: Aggression, Growling, Lunging at Dogs and People Outdoors
- black labrador puppy chewing image by Scott Slattery from Fotolia.com