The benefits and rewards of forming a close and connected bond with a dog are impossible, to sum up in words. These faithful and unconditionally loving beings change our lives. That said, canines are a different species, with different bodies, needs, modes of being, body language, and communication styles.
As a result, humans can wind up being utterly frustrated, angry, or helpless in the wake of dog behavior issues.
Here’s the excellent news for you. If your dog exhibits any of the following 11 common canine behavior issues, you’re receiving important information. These behaviors are one way your dog communicates with you, and I’m here to help you translate their message(s).
While I may provide some nuggets of wisdom on how to correct or redirect some of them, all dogs and owners are different. If you cannot figure out what your dog is saying or how you can respond to live harmoniously, get in touch with an experienced dog trainer and start learning how to cohabitate in peace, love, and joy!
In the canine world, any object (rock, stone, old animal skin, bones, etc.) that isn’t being chewed on or played with by a pack member is entirely up for grabs. Not so in the human world, right? Make sure puppies have lots and lots of access to safe doggie chew toys and plenty of exercise.
Make sure that’s the case throughout a dog’s first couple of years. After that, humans must be diligent about keeping their personal objects out of the way, off the floor, etc., until the dog learns what is his/her's and what is yours. Excessive chewing/destruction may also signify a lack of exercise or separation anxiety (see #8).
We’d put this at Number 1, except puppies are somewhat excluded from instant expectations. Getting your dog to come, without fail, when called is a foundation of Doggy Training 101! First and foremost, ALWAYS enthusiastically praise, pet, and love on your dog when s/he comes to you at all. Make yourself a welcome, fun, and positive feature in the dog’s life.
Never chase your dog. Instead, call him. If he doesn’t come, start to run or trot away while calling, enticing him to follow. Then heartily praise him when he arrives. The alternative is to use the “sit” command (another foundational Doggy 101 command!) and then approach him. Over time, he’ll learn to come on command.
Destruction of property is an absolute sign of separation anxiety. Canines do not spend much time alone in the wild. They are together, in company with one another or in pairs/trios/etc., and moving almost all the time (when they aren’t sleeping).
It will take time for your dog to learn that you’re returning home, and crate training is a great way to go about the interim period. And, of course, regular exercise is essential to ensure pent-up energy doesn’t contribute to existing anxiety.
Some dogs are more prone to digging than others, like those bred to hunt or serve as rodent control. This is why learning about dog breeds before selecting yours (size, temperament, behavioral “expertise,” energy levels, and so on, is essential before bringing a dog home. For example, if you aren’t up for a dog who digs, don’t get a terrier. Likewise, if you aren’t up for walking (or jogging, or biking, or hiking, or rollerblading) your dog for an hour or two per day, don’t get a cattle dog.
Catching a dog “in the act” is key. Telling a dog “No” after something already happened doesn’t usually translate well. Then distract them with a favorite toy, a game of chase or fetch, and cover/refill the hole. If you have space, consider giving dogs an “okay zone” to dig, like a small sandbox with buries toys, or treats.
Dogs should never pull on the leash. It’s your job to teach your dog to “heel” (walk calmly at your right side). Harnesses are step one, and specialized “no-pull” collars are step two. Your calm, persistent training is a must here. Again, a group dog training class is a fun and easy way to learn how to properly walk a dog and nip leash pulling in the bud.
There is only one way to keep a dog from begging: NEVER EVER FEED A DOG FROM THE TABLE OR WHILE YOU'RE EATING. I encourage most dog owners to make the table/dining room an “off-limits” area. Insist guests honor that same tenet. Ignore a begging dog completely. Better yet, train the dog to lay down on a bed or to be in the crate during mealtimes if it’s a persistent problem or young children are detracting from your cause!
Positive attention (petting, cooing, playing, treats) should ONLY be given when a dog behaves in the way you want her to behave. If a dog is whining or barking for attention, you ignore her. Plain and simple. This is assuming your dog is well-exercised, fed, and has been to the bathroom. Then, when she’s calm, quiet, sitting, or laying down - you can use a calming approach and give her positive attention.
Dogs must learn to trust you’ll return, and they aren’t abandoned. Signs of separation anxiety occur when nobody is home and include:
Teaching your dog that you always return is the best way to calm a dog that gets anxious when you leave. Start by leaving for small increments (5, 10, 30 minutes) and then coming right back, with lots of praise and love. Stretch those times out. Your vet may have advice specific to your dog, and dogs who are especially prone to separation anxiety may fare best with crate training.
Instead, teach your dog to lay down in an appropriate spot by the door and then let them out. Significant praise or training treats help. This redirects the behavior and teaches the dog to lay down in the “stay spot,” and someone will honor the request.
If your door isn’t in easy sight of main living areas, we recommend bell training instead.
This might not seem all that bad if you have a 10 lb dog (although claws can be damaging to young children and elders); this can be detrimental with large breeds. Either way, establish a no-tolerance policy for jumping on humans. Never give any dog attention at a greeting until they are calm and have all four paws on the ground.
First and foremost, make “greetings” a very low-key experience, rather than an exciting one with your own calm voice, body language, and cues. For example, if the dog jumps, Use a gentle nudge with your knee or fist on the dog’s chest, look away and ignore the dog, and firmly say, “Down,” or “No jump.”
Aggression must be deciphered and corrected ASAP! Aggression may be a behavioral trait in a guard dog, or it can also signify fear/anxiety in a submissive one. Either way, everyone is at risk - including the dog - if aggressive behaviors aren’t controlled. If aggression is limited to new greetings or strangers approaching the dog, muzzle the dog in these situations and tell the public to stay back. Read How to Approach a Dog You Don’t Know for more on that topic.
If the aggression is more widespread or inconsistent, hire a dog trainer immediately as there is no time to waste. Getting one-on-one dog training at home or enrolling your pup in doggy boot camp is often the best solution.
Would you like to learn more about what your dog is trying to say via less than desirable behaviors? Then, contact Alternative Canine Training, and we’ll get to the bottom of it so you can enjoy each other’s company.