The key to understanding dog behavior, primarily those bad habits that drive all of us dog owners nuts, is to realise that these so called ‘problem behaviors’ are really nothing more than a dog’s natural way of communicating with the world and each other. The problem lies with us humans who do not speak their language.
It is my aim in this simple guide to highlight some of the commonest ‘bad’ behaviors exhibited by dogs, shed some light on why they are doing it and provide an approach that you may take to correct the issue without resorting to harsh disciplinarian measures.
There is no such thing as a bad dog, only a misunderstood one.
Most people, even if they have never owned a dog have at least known a few, and as much as I love them I will be the first to admit that they can and do act up. Being too noisy or boisterous, chewing your best slippers, slobbering over visitors and jumping up at them, howling despairingly when you go to work to name but a few.
Your dog’s problems can only be solved with a calm and effective approach and by getting to the heart of what your dog is actually thinking. Check out our online dog training reviews for some of the best home training and behavioural programs around. Have a look at some of these common concerns and gain some insight into the peculiar mind of your canine best friend.
All dogs bark howl and whine-
Of all these reasons why your dog barks, it is perhaps the last that you will need to take most seriously, not only can you get into trouble if you live in an urban area from the authorities, if your dog is telling you that they are lonely or bored then perhaps you need to evaluate your lifestyle routines so that you can make tmore time for them in your daily pattern.
Understanding Dog Behavior-
Chewing and gnawing is part of any dogs natural behavior, especially puppies. Dogs use their mouths as a primary tool in exploring and understanding their environment.
Puppies in particular will mouth chew and slobber pretty much anything that is new or interesting to them, they behave in exactly the same way that a teething baby does, and whilst some dogs retain more of a chewing thing than others as they become adults, pretty much all of them calm down from what they were like in puppy hood.
Chewing only becomes a problem when it is destructive or excessive,something akin to canine OCD and is most likely to be the result of boredom or anxiety.
You can try puppy proofing a certain area to contain the dog when you are out, this will stop them having free rein to maul the house in your absence, and if you are out for any length of time why not keep them busy with a chewy toy or treat that you approve of , its no good giving them a slipper or shoe for example as they will have no way of telling which shoe they can chew and which they cant. I would heartily recommend the Kong chewy toy, they are very tough and have a hollow middle which you can stuff full of lovely smelly treats.
Some dogs personalities make them are more resilient to being left alone than others so again if you suspect their excessive gnawing si due to separation anxiety then think about ways you can adjust your lifestyle so you can spend more time with them.
Plenty of exercise is key to diverting destructive behavior, relieving boredom and burning off energy makes for a calmer less manic dog which helps to reduce the amount of time they spend getting into trouble..
Separation anxiety in dogs is interesting in that it can manifest itself in any number of ways with the severity and behaviors demonstrated varying from dog to dog. When a dog is separated from their owner they can become abnormally anxious and exhibit a wide range of emotional responses.
Dogs by nature being pack animals are hard wired to live in close knit family units, you, its human owner are your dogs pack and when you go to work or even just leave the room it can seem to the dog like he has been deserted or abandoned.
Your dog may bark uncontrollably, whine or howl, they may start to scratch or chew anything at hand, pacing backwards and forwards even defecating or urinating.
A dog suffering from separation anxiety may constantly follow their owner around and try to be touching or in contact with them at all times, they may be hyper exuberant on their owners return by jumping up, running around in circles and barking like a maniac even if their owner has only been away a few moments.
Separation anxiety can be a complicated issue to deal with as no one really knows for certain how it is caused, however, there are likely to be a number of factors involved.
Treatment should be considered after consultation with your vet to rule out any obvious physiological problems, but may involve a combination of specific training methods, behavioral modification exercises, desensitising your departure routines possibly in combination with some form of prescribed medication.
Never punish your dog for his anxiety attacks it will only confuse the issue and make your dog even more anxious, try to understand the loss your dog feels when you leave and with dedication effort and persistence in quality training this problem is usually very successfully resolved.
Aggressive dog behavior is any growling, snarling, showing teeth, lunging or biting.
There is often ( though not always) a progressive scaling up in aggressive behavior before a dog will actually bite, it is important to understand the reasons why a dog is aggressive and how to counteract that aggression.
Firstly lets look at your dog’s breed or history, some dogs are bred as guard dogs or hunting dogs and will be predisposed towards more aggressive behavior, though all dogs have the potential to be aggressive.
Behavioral problems of this nature are more likely when a puppy has come from aggressive parents or been reared in an abusive violent environment. This kind of aggression is serious as it may point to deep seated psychological issues in your dog's make up and may require extensive work with animal behaviourist’s, trainers or your vet to overcome its issues.
Other reasons a dog may show aggression are more about a dog’s instinct and nature rather than it having a ‘problem’. Once a cause has been highlighted, treatment should be relatively straight forward to implement.
Any situation that a dog feels they cannot cope with and cannot leave will result in aggression, put simply ‘Fight or Flight’. A dog may not have been socialised properly resulting in a fear of strangers, chaotic situations or noises like loud bangs which can trigger an aggressive response especially if the dog cannot escape what is frightening it.
To resolve any dog behavioral problems caused by fear try some of the following:
Most dogs are happy to let people take the decisions and will conform quite naturally into the status of subordinate pack member and will have learned through effective obedience training for puppies what kind of behavior is expected.
Dominance aggression can occur when your dog is being possessive over its food, toy or favourite sleeping area, though a dog can just as easily guard its owner, the front door or its owner's slippers .
This can be a serious problem and needs to be handled carefully as fighting fire with fire and trying to show the dog who is boss will probably backfire. A dominant dog may react badly often inflaming the situation as it tries to maintain its status.
This sort of dominance is often about control. If you challenge the dog directly you give it the attention he feels he is due, ironically he makes the connection that his snarling and growling is being rewarded because you are reacting to it.
The best way to deal with a dominant aggressive dog is to break the cycle, assuming your dog has no underlying health issues after a visit to the vet and he is being given plenty of regular exercise you will need to get back to an effective training routine by promoting positive reinforcement, rewarding good behavior and ignoring the bad.
With these techniques, over time you reinforce to your dog that you are the leader and that 'Butch' cannot do anything without you saying so first.
It can be hard, especially when they look at you with those big fawn eyes, but strong discipline and consistency rather than punishment are the key to dealing with dominance aggression.
Your dog ultimately will be grateful when it realises it can hand over the responsibility of being alpha to you.
Dogs jump up as a means of greeting other dogs and pack members, normally by standing on their hind legs and reaching up with their paws and it is a very natural part of dog behavior.
Jumping up is also something dogs do to exert dominance or challenge for dominance other dog and is something you should definitely discourage as a jumping slobbering excitable dog is not always the best way to endear your self to visitors or the people your dog meets, especially if your canine beastie happens to be gallumphing great Rotweiler with halitosis!
The simplest way of controlling these kinds of dog behavior problems is through reward association.
When you or someone enters the house and the dog starts jumping up ignore them, turn your back on them and ask your dog to sit, as soon as they sit give them lots of praise and perhaps a treat, if they start jumping up again with this new found attention, revert back to the ignoring and asking them to sit.
Within a week your dog should have made the association of being calm and relaxed when someone enters the house.
Dogs are predators. It is part of their primary instinct to hunt or chase and it is probably one of the many qualities of Wolves, dogs earliest ancestors that were so attractive to prehistoric humans and started the process of domestication in the first place.
Many breeds are bred specifically for chasing down prey, it shouldn’t then come as a huge surprise then if Fido wants to charge off and chase squirrels, rabbits cats, and sheep etc.
Problems arise of course when the chasing is uncontrolled and dogs chasing people, cars or other animals especially pets or domestic livestock is dangerous and probably illegal, farmers are often entitled to shoot your dog out of hand if its running amok in their field and you may get in trouble with the authorities if your dog is causing a nuisance in a public area.
If your dog has a particularly strong chasing urge you will need to take steps to ensure he’s under control. here are just a few ideas.
Understanding Dog Behavior-
Most dogs have a strong instinct for digging, their early canine ancestors learned to store food or tasty morsels out of the way of scavengers for a later date by burying it .( hence why dogs bury bones) Dogs also learned to dig out prey burrowed below ground and Terriers for example are particularly good diggers having been specially bred to root out rats, rabbits and foxes from their underground dens.
As problem behaviors go, I used to find the frantic digging of my marginally demented Jack Russell the most irritating and frustrating of all to deal with, there is nothing worse than seeing your beautiful patch of well tilled soil nicely planted with neat rows of lettuce devastated by the excavation of an enormous bone storage area slap bang in the middle !
The knack to stopping unwanted digging is to understand why it’s happening and introduce an alternative that will still allow ‘Towser’ to express his dogginess without destroying your garden.
Always remember that there is reason for any unwanted behaviors displayed by your dog and it is not because your dog is trying to make you angry . Understand what aspect of your dog's natural behavior it is trying to express and adapt the situation accordingly .
This simple guide is meant purely as an introduction to your new dog’s mental processes most problem behavior can be resolved quickly enough by adopting some or all of the simple techniques suggested here or doing al ittle bit more wider research.
If you find that adverse behavior continues or worsens then there may be other deeper causes involved and you would be strongly advised to seek the services of a qualified dog behaviorist.
When you know how your dog thinks, you start to know why he does what he does.