Dogs are among the most common household pets for plenty of reasons — they are loyal, intelligent, and have the ability to provide us humans with an amazing sense of well-being. However, just like any other living thing, dogs can exhibit behavior problems. If we are aware of the most common dog behavior problems, we will be able to detect and solve them — as well as prevent them in the future.
10 Common Dog Behavior Problems & Solutions
1. Excessive Barking
While the occasional woof or howl is nothing to worry about, constant barking is a sure sign of a problem. The first step we should take is determining when and why our dog acts that way.
Let’s have a look at the most common reasons why dogs bark:
- Seeking our attention
- Feeling bored or lonely
- Being excited and joyful
- Feeling anxious
- Trying to warn us of something
- Communicating with other dogs
Treating our dog’s excessive barking requires a great amount of resolve and patience. An effective way to deal with this issue is to teach our dog the “quiet” command. However, if the problem persists, there could be a deeper underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
2. Constant Digging
Digging is part of a dog’s nature — most of the time, they will do it because of their instincts and genetic memory kicking in. Of course, that might result in our lawns looking less than well-trimmed. If our dog takes their digging habit too far, it might be because they are:
- Trying to hide an item, like a favorite toy
- Getting rid of excess energy or dealing with boredom
- Dealing with fear or anxiety
- Attempting to escape from our yard
- Overacting on its hunting instincts
- Seeking comfort or shelter
If our dog is exhibiting a problem with digging, we must determine the cause and work on it. We should pay more attention to them and engage them with various activities — this will keep their mind off of the digging. If the problem persists, we need to consider creating a sandbox for our dog, or a similar area where they will be allowed to dig freely.
3. Improper Urination (Or Defecation)
Easily the most baffling issue of them all, this behavior can make a mess out of our home, or make us a persona-non-grata in certain establishments. If our dog is experiencing issues with urination or defecation, first we need to make sure the cause is not health related. Once this scenario is dismissed, it is time to find out what triggers the unwanted behavior:
- Lack of appropriate potty-training
- Increased anxiety
- Marking territory
In addition to being frustrating, improper elimination can be quite hard to deal with. Puppies who have not yet been properly potty-trained will get better over time. However, older dogs that exhibit it will need a considerable amount of training and behavior modification before they deal with it.
4. Destructive Chewing
Chewing is not just natural for all dogs — it is an essential activity for them, as it develops and maintains their jaws and teeth. However, if we find ourselves replacing couch cushions or wooden chairs weekly, we just might have a problem on our hands. Dogs primarily chew because of the following reasons:
- Baby teeth are coming out
- Increased anxiety
- Excess energy or boredom
- Sheer curiosity about the item being currently chewed
Since chewing is unavoidable, we need to make sure our dog has plenty of items that they are allowed to chew on. We should take the time to train our dog that those are the only items that they can chomp, and keep them engaged with new and different toys.
If we catch our dog in the act of chewing on something inappropriate, we can do the following trick: make a loud noise in order to distract the dog, and then replace the thing they were gnawing at with a favorite chewing toy.
5. Dangerous Chasing
Much like chewing, chasing things is deeply ingrained in a dog’s psyche — it is an essential part of their hunting and predatory instincts. Dogs regularly chase after people, animals, or cars, and this can put all involved parties in dangerous situations that might result in serious injury. In order to avoid that, we should always take the necessary precautions:
- Hold the dog on a leash while outdoors
- Be mindful of nearby triggers — cars, bikes, joggers
- Train the dog to come to us when called by name
- Carry a dog whistle or a similar device
We cannot stop dogs from chasing things, but we must do our best to manage any given situation. Keeping an eye on what the dog is up to and acting accordingly can save us a lot of trouble.
6. Separation Anxiety
Dogs are extremely loyal and form deep bonds with their owners. This is why separation anxiety is quite common with them — they dread the thought of being away from us. As a result, dogs with this issue exhibit many of the problems we already discussed, including excessive barking, property destruction, and inappropriate toilet habits. Our dog might be suffering from separation anxiety if they do one or more of the following:
- Constantly following us around
- Actively seeking physical contact with us
- Getting nervous when we attempt to leave
- Start acting out soon after we leave the premises
Separation anxiety can be a serious problem and is treated by behavior modification and rigorous training. Unfortunately, if the condition is severe, medication might be needed in order to get the desired outcome.
7. Pleading for Treats
Few people can resist the specific look that dogs use to manipulate us into giving them food. However, by giving in, we are enabling a bad habit that might lead to health issues down the road. That is why we should strongly discourage any form of begging from our dog, especially when we are at the dinner table.
It is essential to ensure that the dog is not around us when we are eating. Treats are in order only if the dog behaves as expected, and only after we are completely finished with our own food.
8. Jumping at People
While this behavior is nothing unusual for dogs, it can become quite irritating and potentially dangerous. A dog might do it out of sheer joy, but as a result a child might be harmed. That is why we have to train our dog to avoid excessive jumping.
Physically engaging our dog while they are jumping can be effective, but it can also have an adverse effect. Acknowledging the unwanted behavior might help reinforce it — and jumping most often expresses begging for attention. This is why we should avoid interacting directly with our dog when they start jumping at us.
The best course of action would be to simply ignore them. We must not acknowledge their plea for attention in any way — we simply walk away and resume whatever we were doing. As soon as our dog becomes calm, we should reward them with a treat. Such positive reinforcement is sure to modify the dog’s behavior in the desired way.
Excessive biting is most commonly observed in pups, as it is their primary way to interact with the world around them. Puppies are disciplined to limit the frequency and strength of their biting by their mothers — and often, the training must continue once we come in the picture. Teaching bite inhibition to our dog is extremely important for pretty obvious reasons.
It is important to note that biting is not always a sign of aggression. There are plenty of reasons why dogs bite or nip, including:
- Protecting their property
- Experiencing discomfort or pain
- Acting defensive
- Indulging in their predatory instincts
If we see that our dog bites frequently and with excessive strength, we need to invest time in bite inhibition training. This will help us avoid injury and keep our dog sociable and happy.
10. Hostility & Aggression
Each and every dog is capable of being aggressive — the cause is not always a troubled upbringing or the specifics of a particular breed. However, it is true that dogs that have been abused or have aggressive parents are much more inclined towards aggression against people or other animals. Growling, lunging, showing teeth, and biting are common signs of aggression in dogs.
People argue that certain breeds are naturally more aggressive than others. As a result, they are labeled as dangerous and might even be banned in certain countries. The truth is that the biggest factor is the upbringing — a dog with a troubled history will most likely be more violent and exhibit problem behavior. Also, aggression in dogs can be inherited from their parents regardless of what their breed is.
While the reasons for hostility pretty much overlap with those for biting, we can all agree that open aggression can be much more dangerous than biting. If our dog is unusually hostile towards people or other animals, we need to take the problem seriously and act quickly. First, we need to check if the issue is a result of a health problem, since that is often the case. If not, we must seek the help of a dog behaviorist. Dealing with an aggressive dog requires expertise that most people don’t have, so it would be best to leave the matter to a professional.
We need to pay attention to our dogs and be mindful of behavior problems like the ones we described above. Some of them might be the result of health-related issues, and in such cases, we need to take swift action. If our dog is showing symptoms of a sickness, we must not hesitate — we have to call our veterinarian as soon as possible. For any and all questions related to our dog’s physical and mental health, we need to turn to our vet. They will be able to assess the situation correctly since they are aware of our dog’s medical history and specifics.