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10 Common Dog Behavioural Problems and How to Solve Them

Written by: Helena Lawrence



Time to read 7 min

Are you struggling with dog behavioural problems and wondering how to solve them? Don't worry, you're not alone! Many dog owners face these challenges. Whether you're a newbie to dog ownership, thinking about getting a dog, or simply looking to help your dog overcome challenging issues, you've come to the right place!

Understanding common dog behaviour problems is the first step towards solving and preventing them. And that's where we come in! We'll provide you with the insights and knowledge you need to tackle these issues head-on. But remember, a solid foundation of obedience training is key to preventing and managing many of these problems.

Let's dive in, shall we?

1. Barking

Is your dog a bit of a chatterbox? Barking, howling, and whining are common ways that dogs communicate. However, excessive barking can be a behaviour problem that needs addressing.

First things first, let's figure out why your dog is barking in the first place. The most common types of barking include:

- Warning or alert barking

- Playful and excited barking

- Attention-seeking barks

- Anxious barking

- Barking out of boredom

- Reacting to other dogs

But fear not! You can regain control over excessive barking. Teach your dog some bark/quiet commands and stay consistent and patient. And don't forget to address any underlying causes. With dedication and attention to detail, you'll be well on your way to silencing those barks!

2. Chewing

Is your dog a professional chewer? Well, chewing is perfectly natural for dogs. It's their way of exploring the world and relieving stress. But excessive chewing can quickly turn into a behavior problem, especially when your dog starts destroying things around the house.

So, why do dogs chew? Here are some common reasons:

- Puppy teething

- Boredom or excess energy

- Anxiety

- Curiosity (especially for puppies)

To encourage your dog to chew on appropriate items, make sure they have plenty of chew toys. Keep personal belongings out of reach. When you're not home, consider crating or confining your furry friend to a safe area.

And if you catch your dog chewing on the wrong thing, quickly distract them with a sharp noise and replace it with a chew toy. Remember, exercise is essential! Make sure your pooch gets plenty of physical activity to burn off energy and stimulate their mind, preventing them from turning to destructive chewing.

Bulldog puppy chewing shoe

3. Digging

If given the opportunity, most dogs can't resist digging - it's just in their nature! Certain breeds, like terriers, have a particularly strong digging instinct due to their hunting heritage. Generally, dogs dig for a few reasons:

- Boredom or excess energy

- Anxiety or fear

- Hunting instinct

- Seeking comfort (like nesting or cooling off)

- Trying to hide their treasures (like bones or toys)

- Wanting to escape or access a certain area

It can be quite frustrating if your devoted friend loves to turn your yard into a renovation site. But fret not! Identify the cause behind their digging and take steps to address it. Give your dog plenty of exercise, spend quality time together, and work on some extra training. If digging seems inevitable, designate a specific area where your dog can dig to their heart's content, like a sandbox. Train your dog to understand that this is their only approved digging spot.

Dog digging in garden

4. Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a commonly discussed issue in dogs' behaviour. Signs may include vocalization, chewing, inappropriate urination, defecation, and other forms of mischief that occur when dogs are separated from their owners. However, not all of these actions are necessarily due to separation anxiety. 

True separation anxiety can be identified by the following signs:

- The dog starts fretting when the owner gets ready to leave

- Misbehavior happens within the first 15 to 45 minutes after the owner's departure

- The dog always wants to be by the owner's side

- The dog tries to sneak in as much physical contact with the owner as possible

Addressing true separation anxiety requires dedicated training, behavior modification, and gradual desensitisation exercises. In severe cases, medication might be recommended.

Anxious dog under blanket

5. Issues with House Training

Uh-oh! Is your dog leaving surprises indoors? We understand how frustrating this can be. Not only can it damage your living space, but it can also make your dog feel unwelcome in public or at others' homes. Before you worry, first speak to your vet to rule out any potential health issues. If there are no underlying medical problems, some of the reasons for this behaviour could be:

- Excitement or submissive urination

- Territorial marking

- Anxiety

- Lack of House Training

- Fears or phobias, such as getting frightened by loud noises

Puppies, especially those under 12 weeks old, are more prone to this kind of behavior and may require extra patience and guidance. But whether your dog is a puppy or an older dog with these issues a great place to start is to get into a routine. 

By letting your dog out into the garden/go for a walk asap in the morning and then praising them when they poop or pee outside helps them learn when and where they should do their business.

The good news is that, over time, most properly trained adult dogs can learn to ring their very own "doggy doorbells" to let you know when nature calls.

6. Begging

Ah, those puppy dog eyes! We know how tempting it is to give in to your playful companion's begging behavior. But did you know that indulging them can lead to digestive issues and unwanted weight gain? Yes, food is love, but it's important to set boundaries. Let's train your pup to understand that begging is a no-no from your end.

Before you sit down for a meal, make sure to direct your dog to its resting spot, away from the tantalizing sights and smells of food. If necessary, consider confining or training your dog to be in a separate room during mealtime. You could even distract them with an enrichment activity such as a lickmat or puzzle toy.

And here's the trick - reward your good boy (or girl) only after everyone has finished eating. This way, they'll learn that patience pays off (and their health will thank them for it too!).

King Charles Spaniel begging at dining table

7. Chasing

When dogs chase after things, it's just their natural predatory instinct kicking in. Whether it's other animals, people, or cars, such pursuits can lead to dangerous and devastating consequences. While you may not be able to completely extinguish your dog's urge to give chase, there are steps you can take to prevent potential disasters.

  1. Always keep your dog on a lead when out and about.
  2. Teach your dog to come back to you when called.
  3. Keep a dog whistle or noisemaker handy to grab your dog's attention.
  4. Remain vigilant and watch out for potential triggers, like joggers or squirrels

Your best bet for success is to keep the chase instinct under control. By consistently training your dog throughout their life, you can teach them the importance of first focusing their attention on you before going off on a full-speed sprint.

8. Jumping Up

Jumping up is a common and instinctive behavior in dogs. Puppies jump up to greet their mothers, and later on, they might jump up to greet people. Sometimes, dogs may also resort to jumping up when they're excited or attempting to grab something from someone's hands. However, a jumping dog can be quite annoying and even hazardous.

There are various methods to discourage your dog from jumping, but not all of them will be successful. Techniques such as lifting a knee, holding their paws, or pushing them away might work in certain cases, but for most dogs, these approaches can convey the wrong message. Jumping up is often attention-seeking behavior, so any form of acknowledgement rewards the jumping, further reinforcing it.

The best approach is to simply turn away and ignore your dog. If needed, walk away. Avoid making eye contact, speaking, or touching your dog. Just go about your business. Once he calms down and remains still, give him a calm reward. Your dog will soon get the message that jumping up is not an effective way to capture attention.

Dog jumping up

9. Biting

When it comes to dogs, biting and nipping are all part of their natural instincts. Puppies use biting and nipping as a way to explore their surroundings. Mother dogs step in and teach their little ones not to bite too hard and provide necessary discipline. This helps puppies learn bite inhibition. Owners play a crucial role in showing their puppies that mouthing and biting are not acceptable behaviors by consistently teaching bite inhibition.

Apart from puppy behavior, dogs may also resort to biting for various reasons. It's important to note that biting or snapping doesn't always come from aggression. Dogs may bite or nip due to:

- Fear

- Defensiveness

- Protecting their territory

- Pain or illness

- Predatory instincts

Any dog might resort to biting if they perceive the circumstances demand it. As responsible owners and breeders, we can help minimize the chances of any dog biting by providing proper training, socialization, and responsible breeding practices.

10. Aggression

Common signs of dog aggression are:

- Growling

- Snarling

- Showing teeth

- Lunging

- Biting

It's worth noting that any dog, regardless of breed or background, has the potential to show aggression. However, dogs with a history of violence or abuse, as well as those bred from aggressive bloodlines, are more likely to display aggressive behavior towards people or other dogs.

Unfortunately, certain breeds are often labeled as "dangerous" and restricted in specific areas. However, it's important to understand that it's usually not about the breed itself, but rather the dog's history and environment that influence its behavior. Regardless of breed, some dogs may inherit certain aggressive traits. Luckily, most experts agree that legislating based on breed is not the solution.

The reasons behind aggression are essentially the same as those for biting or snapping, but aggression in dogs presents a much more serious challenge. If your dog exhibits aggressive tendencies, it's advisable to speak to your vet first, as it may be linked to a health issue. Afterwards, seek guidance from an experienced dog trainer or behaviourist. It's essential to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of yourself and others around aggressive dogs.