Although we might believe otherwise, no dog is born perfect. Behavioural problems are common and hardwired into your dog's DNA. Sometimes behavioural problems are actually caused by an unknowing owner. Puppies, especially, are susceptible to misbehaving, and it is important to instill positive education at a young age. However, you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks, so to speak. The following are common dog behaviour problems, their causes, and solutions. Start your dog training the right way by learning everything there is to know about the most relevant behaviour issues potentially present in our canine companions.
Barking is ingrained in the evolution of our dogs. For centuries, people have used dogs as guardians, surveillance, and living "alarm systems." These days, however, barking can cause problems for the dog's family. For instance, a dog living in an apartment is likely to disturb neighbours and other tenants by excessively barking. Although this behaviour often comes from a place of protection for their owners, it is not very acceptable in the human world. Luckily, this is a fairly easy problem to fix. Like every dog behaviour problem, it only takes a bit of training.
There is a wide variety of causes for excessive barking. Some dogs, especially smaller breeds, are inherently yappy from birth. Hounds and hunting dogs are known to "bawl" or "holler" all hours of the nights, causing quite a headache for anyone who might live nearby. It's as second-nature to these dog breeds as wagging their tails. Other cases are more complex. Some dogs have high levels of anxiety, making them skittish and more aware of their surroundings than other dogs. Meanwhile, other dogs have simply been allowed to exhibit this behaviour for too long. We can't be with our dogs all day, every day, no matter how much we might appreciate that time together. Dogs who are left at home while their owners are work or travelling are often the biggest culprits of excessive barking. If your dog is barking too much, due to long hours at home and alone, it doesn't mean that you are a bad pet owner. This is completely normal behaviour and, fortunately, it isn't too difficult to correct.
Curing your dog of excessive barking should be a relatively easy fix. In order to train your dog to stop barking so much, you should make them more comfortable and accepting of whatever it is which makes them bark. Most dogs with this issue tend to bark when someone knocks on your door for a visit when a stranger comes a bit too close to their owner. To familiarise your dog with these things and, in effect, show them that visitors and strangers are "okay," there are proven training practices. Try exiting your home, then knocking on the door one time. If your dog barks, simply keep trying until they don't bark at the knock any longer. It is important to reward your dog for even the slightest effort to correct their behaviour, which is why you should start by only knocking at the door once. When your dog finally ignores your single knock, reward them with training treats, affection, and positive reinforcement through words, such as "good boy." When the dog has mastered ignoring the single knock, try knocking twice, then three times and so on, until your pooch accepts hearing knocks at the door as a normal occurrence.
Proper socialisation is necessary to get your dog to stop barking at strangers. Make sure to take your dog out in public regularly, showing them there is nothing to fear. The owner's own perception of the public and anxiety may play a part in this problem as well. Dog's pick up on their owners' subconscious feelings. Thus, if a dog owner is introverted or antisocial, it is likely their dog will feel the same way. If you're an introverted dog owner, you're in luck, because socialising your dog with other people will also involve socialising, yourself. Is there any better way to bond with your dog than by growing and developing alongside them? If your dog is barking at other dogs, the same methods of socialisation apply, but simply replace their interactions with human beings with other dogs. Dog parks are an excellent option for socialising with other dogs, and you'll already have something in common with their owners (owning a dog), providing you with an opportunity to socialise as well.
Finally, if your dog won't be quiet while you're gone, they could be experiencing separation anxiety. Spending time with our dogs is great, but you must leave them alone sometimes in order to teach them how to be independent (as independent as a domestic dog can be, at least). Training your dog not to bark when you leave is similar to training them not to bark at a knock on the door. Practice leaving your dog alone for periods of time, starting with only a few seconds. Even one or two seconds of silence while you are out of the room should warrant a reward. This shows your dog exactly what behaviour you want and expect from them. When they are rewarded for small efforts, they think, "oh, this is what my human wants," and will continue to seek their reward. Over time, this positive reinforcement will teach them to stay quiet while their owner isn't home.
Aggression is a more difficult problem to fix than barking, admittedly, but there is still hope for aggressive dogs. Aggressive dogs are likely to snap and lash out at innocent bystanders, which could result in a lawsuit if they bite or otherwise attack someone. Some dogs are even "put down" for this type of behaviour. Therefore, it is extremely important to correct this dog behaviour problem.
Like barking, aggression can also be caused by poor social skills. Dogs are often aggressive towards unfamiliar things. Again, it has been ingrained in their DNA as watchdogs and servants of the past. In other cases, "fixed" or neutered/spayed dogs are sometimes aggressive towards intact dogs, while intact dogs might show aggressive behaviour due to their sexual hormones. Unfortunately, history abuse is the most common cause of aggression. Larger breeds, like pit-bulls and boxers, are often used in illegal dog-fighting rings, where aggression is propagated. These are usually the dogs that are put down for their aggression, however, with proper dog training, an aggressive dog can become a loving member of any family.
While some dogs will never be cured of their aggression, sad to say, there are ways to limit their aggression and eventually alleviate it. If your dog is prone to lashing out at people or other animals, you should always use a basket muzzle while on walks and outdoors. Moreover, limiting your aggressive dog's exposure to situations and environments that set them off is a vital first step towards eliminating this behaviour. Aggressive behaviour is best caught before your dog acts on it. If your dog starts growling or showing signs of feeling threatened (pulling their ears back, barring their teeth, and so on), you should immediately remove your dog from the situation. You should always be careful not to "bully" or punish an aggressive dog too harshly, as this might reinforce their aggressive behaviour. Alternatively, professional help is always an option, as well as veterinary assistance.
Most dogs are guilty of destroying shoes, sofa cushions, or even their own toys at some point. Have you ever came home to find trash and chewed-up laundry strewn all over your home? Cleaning up after your dog has torn up roll after roll of toilet paper or diminished all your socks down to one pair might be frustrating, though you shouldn't give up on your dog. This behaviour is completely normal and easy enough to fix.
Dogs are much like children. When a child is bored, they often partake in destruction. When a dog isn't receiving adequate exercise or both physical and mental stimulation, they will find their own ways to entertain themselves. Boredom is the main cause of destructive behaviour, but changes to their environment also play a part. Dogs are animals of routine, and when their routines are disturbed, they will exhibit destructive tendencies. Moving into a new home, for example, might cause your dog to start chewing on things, if only temporarily.
The most obvious solution to your pup's destructive ways is to simply stimulate them. Direct their energy towards a healthy outlet, such as outside play and exercise. To help stimulate your dog's brain, teach them new tricks and commands. This will strengthen their focus and alleviate their boredom. If you can't be there for your dog, there are other ways your dog can stimulate their body and mind all in your own home. Dog toys are a common necessity for keeping your dog occupied while you're away, however, any chew can suffice for things they shouldn't be chewing on. Stay away from bones and rawhides, as these can break into tiny shards that may cut your dog's throat and stomach when swallowed. Activity boards and puzzle games are other popular options for stimulating a dog by itself. Stuffed animals are great too but be warned: a stuffed animal might teach your dog that it is okay to chew on soft fabrics.
Finally, one of the most common issues with dogs is house training. Let's face it: dogs will have accidents, especially when they're puppies, but excessively disobeying and "going" wherever they want is a major concern. No one wants that stuff lying about their house, causing a nasty odour.
Sometimes, depending on their personality, a dog might act out in defiance of a particular rule of action on behalf of its owner. Dogs might urinate on your clothing or favourited sofa as a way of showing that they are upset with something. Breaking their routine is often a cause of this behaviour. Other causes include not being given enough time to do their business outside or a lack of a designated area for it, indoors.
While inside, puppy pads are your dog's best bet when it comes to having "accidents." Place a few pads around your house, covering your dog's favourited areas to potty. When taking your dog outside for a bathroom break, give them enough time and space to do their business. Walk them around a bit until they find the "right" spot. Some dogs are picky about where they go, while others demand a certain level of privacy, oddly enough. Take time to get to know your dog's preferences and what makes them most comfortable.
Raising a dog is a journey for both the dog, itself and its owner. Every dog will misbehave at some point in its life. Furthermore, even the most stubborn of dogs has the potential to become an ideal furry friend. That being said, all it takes to cure most behavioural issues is a bit of training and sufficient attention. Although many issues are caused either directly or indirectly by a dog's owner, even the best dog owner makes mistakes. Training a dog is as educational for the dog as well as its owner and working together to correct these issues will only serve to bring you closer to your beloved pet.
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