13 Common Dog Behaviours and How to Manage Them
Dog behaviour problems are often misunderstood or mishandled by dog owners. Dog behaviour is an indication of your pet’s mood or something deeper and like their human counterparts there’s always more to them “acting” out and although you may not be fluent in the canine tongue you need to learn how to interpret dog behaviour.
Have you ever witnessed your dog licking certain textures or circling the same spot in front of you? There are many reasons a specific dog state of mind or health concern may cause him to do these things. Once you pay attention to his behaviour, you'll be able to help him.
Perhaps you are new to dog ownership, considering getting a dog, or just wish to help your dog with a challenging issue. A thorough understanding of the most common dog behaviour problems is the first step to solving and preventing them. A solid foundation of obedience training will help you prevent or better control many of these issues.
Most dogs vocalize in one way or another. They may bark, howl, whine and more. Excessive barking is considered a behaviour problem which we often address by shouting down at a dog especially if we live in a communal space with rules on excessive noise!
Before you can correct excessive barking, it’s important to first determine why your dog is vocalizing. The most common reasons your dog will bark are:
Warning or alert of unfamiliar people
Playfulness and excitement
Responding to other dogs, cats or hadedas
Learn to control excessive barking. Consider teaching the bark/quiet commands. Be consistent and patient. Address any underlying causes of barking. It’s therefore really important to know what your dog’s normal behaviour is, in order to be able to establish and identify problems.
If your dog doesn’t normally bark, it’s then easier to identify the cause. Dedication and attention to detail can go a long way to stop a dog from barking. While it may be easy to spot the first and last from the list above, dealing with anxiety and boredom could be part of wider issues.
Pay attention to your dog’s tone, type of bark and body language which will also help you easily know the differences in their reaction to the environment. Is their bark a single yelp, a series of stutters, continuous rapid barking or non-stop barking in intervals?
Each of these could definitely be associated to the reason for barking and will help you identify the issues more easily. If you’ve had your dog for a while this should be easier, but if you have a new dog, it’s a process of getting to know them.
As a last resort, you can also try medication like Petcalm medicine for dogs with anxious behaviour to help them cope.
Chewing is a natural action for all dogs. In fact, chewing is an important activity for most dogs; it's just a part of the way they are wired. However, excessive chewing can quickly become a behaviour problem if your dog causes destruction. The most common reasons dogs chew include:
Boredom or excess energy
Curiosity (especially puppies)
However certain breeds, irrespective of size, are more prone to chewing than others, so if you own any of these types of dogs, chewing would be part of their normal behaviour. However, where chewing becomes destructive, then it’s important to encourage your dog to chew on the right things by providing plenty of appropriate chew toys like the ZippyPaws Santiago skull or the Outward Hound Firehose Squeaker.
Keep personal items away from your dog. When you are not home, keep your dog crated or confined to an area where less destruction can be caused or you could be in for a nasty shock when you return as dogs can cause some serious havoc and/or damage to furniture and clothing!
If you catch your dog chewing the wrong thing, quickly distract your dog with a sharp noise. Then, replace the item with a chew toy. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so it can wear off energy and be stimulated in that way rather than turning to chewing.
If given the chance, most dogs will do some amount of digging; it's a matter of instinct. Certain dog breeds, like terriers, are more prone to digging because of their hunting instincts. In general, most dogs dig for these reasons:
Boredom or excess energy
Anxiety or fear
Comfort-seeking (such as nesting or cooling off)
Desire to hide possessions (like bones or toys)
To escape or gain access to an area
It can get rather frustrating if your dog likes to dig up your yard. Try and determine the cause of the digging, then work to eliminate that source. Give your dog more exercise, spend more quality time together, and work on extra training. If digging seems inevitable, set aside an area where your dog can freely dig, like a sandbox. Train your dog that it is acceptable to dig in this area only.
Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly discussed dog behaviour problems and you will notice a trend from many of the behaviour issues manifest from separation anxiety or boredom. This is not uncommon as dogs are attached to their owners, it’s almost like they imprint on the owners, hence the proverb man’s best friend!
Manifestations include vocalization, chewing, inappropriate urination and defecation, and other forms of destruction that occur when a dog is separated from his owner. Not all of these actions are the result of separation anxiety.
Some dogs suffering from separation anxiety become agitated when their owners prepare to leave. Others seem anxious or depressed prior to their owners’ departure or when their owners aren’t present. Some try to prevent their owners from leaving.
Usually, right after a owners leaves a dog with separation anxiety, the dog will begin barking and displaying other distress behaviours within a short time after being left alone—often within minutes. When the owner returns home, the dog acts as though it’s been years since he’s seen his mom or dad!
When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.
Signs of true separation anxiety include:
The dog becomes anxious when the owner prepares to leave.
Misbehaviour occurs in the first 15 to 45 minutes after the owner leaves.
The dog wants to follow the owner around constantly.
The dog tries to be touching the owner whenever possible.
True separation anxiety requires dedicated training, behaviour modification, and desensitization exercises. Medication may be recommended in extreme cases. You could try a natural remedy to help anxious dog.
Inappropriate urination and defecation are among the most frustrating dog behaviours. They can damage areas of your home and make your dog unwelcome in public places or at the homes of others. It is most important that you discuss this behaviour with your veterinarian first to rule out health problems. If no medical cause is found, try to determine the reason for the behaviour, which can come down to one of the following:
Lack of proper housebreaking
Inappropriate urination is unavoidable in puppies, especially before 12 weeks of age. Older dogs are another story. Many dogs require serious behaviour modification to rid them of the habit once it becomes ingrained.
When your dog pees when they first see you or someone they really, really enjoy, or during play, they are simply releasing urine because they’re happy. Most dogs grow out of this behaviour as they age, but you can make sure they don’t leak on the floor by greeting them outside.
Likewise, be sure they’ve fully emptied their bladder before you know something big is about to happen. Touch can be a trigger for urination in excited dogs. Position yourself in such a way that guards against a high-touch reunion or play scenario. If there is an accident, downplay it. When they’re outside when they pee, give them loads of praise and a treat.
Begging is a bad habit, but many dog owners actually encourage it. This can lead to digestive problems and obesity. Dogs beg because they love food. However, table scraps are not treats, and food is not love. Yes, it is hard to resist that longing look, but giving in "just this once" creates a problem in the long run. When you teach your dog that begging is permitted, you are sending the wrong message.
Begging in dogs is a learned behaviour. At some point, dogs discover that pawing, nudging, whining, drooling, barking, or simply riveting their gaze on your plate will usually yield a prized reward. Some people intentionally teach their dogs to “beg” on command for a food reward.
Like we do with toddlers, we give in to the emotion, unfortunately we transfer this approach with our dogs as well! Food isn’t the only reward for which a dog can learn to mooch. Dogs may agitate for affection, playtime, toys, or anything else that seems worth the effort. As soon as you give in to this bad behaviour, you have taught your dog that begging works.
Before you sit down to eat, tell your dog to go to its place, preferably where it will not be able to stare at you. If necessary, confine your dog to another room. If it behaves, give it a special treat only after you and your family are completely finished eating. It really comes down to discipline and all members in the household being consistent in their approach with dogs.
A dog's desire to chase moving things is simply a display of predatory instinct. Many dogs will chase other animals, people, and cars. All of these can lead to dangerous and devastating outcomes. While you may not be able to stop your dog from trying to chase, you can take steps to prevent disaster.
Keep your dog confined or on a leash at all times (unless directly supervised indoors).
Train your dog to come when called.
Have a dog whistle or noisemaker on hand to get your dog's attention.
Stay aware and watch for potential triggers, like joggers.
Your best chance at success is to keep the chase from getting out of control. Dedicated training over the course of your dog's life will teach him to focus his attention on you first, before running off.
Jumping up is a common and natural behaviour in dogs. Puppies jump up to reach and greet their mothers. Later, they may jump up when greeting people. Dogs may also jump up when excited or seeking an item in the person's hands. A jumping dog can be annoying and even dangerous.
There are many methods to stop a dog's jumping, but not all will be successful. Lifting a knee, grabbing the paws, or pushing the dog away might work in some cases, but for most dogs, this sends the wrong message. Jumping up is often attention-seeking behaviour, so any acknowledgment of your dog's actions provide an instant reward, reinforcing the jumping.
Training your dog not to jump up on people takes patience and persistence on your part. Be aware that there are actions that you should take and others that you should avoid. Be consistent when you're training your dog, and you'll be rewarded with a best friend who keeps its front paws to itself.
The best method is to simply turn away and ignore your dog. Walk away if necessary. Do not make eye contact, speak, or touch your dog. Go about your business. When they relax and remain still, calmly reward them. It won't take long before your dog gets the message. Like with most things when it comes to your dog training and reinforcement is crucial.
Dogs bite and nip for several reasons, most of which are instinctive. Puppies bite and nip to explore the environment. Mother dogs teach their puppies not to bite too hard and discipline them when needed. This helps the puppies develop bite inhibition. Owners often need to show their puppies that mouthing and biting are not acceptable by continuing to teach bite inhibition.
Beyond puppy behaviour, dogs may bite for several reasons. The motivation to bite or snap is not necessarily about aggression. A dog may snap, nip, or bite for a variety of reasons.
Protection of property
Pain or sickness
Any dog may bite if the circumstances warrant it in the dog's mind. Owners and breeders are the ones who can help decrease the tendency for any type of dog to bite through proper training, socialisation, and breeding practices.
Dog aggression is exhibited by growling, snarling, showing teeth, lunging, and biting. It is important to know that any dog has the potential to show aggression, regardless of breed or history. However, dogs with violent or abusive histories and those bred from dogs with aggressive tendencies are much more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour towards people or other dogs.
Unfortunately, some breeds are labelled "dangerous" and banned in certain areas. However, it's not usually about the breed so much as it's about history. A dog's environment has a major impact on behaviour. Also, regardless of breed, a dog may inherit some aggressive traits. Fortunately, most experts agree that breed-specific legislation is not the answer.
Reasons for aggression are basically the same as the reasons a dog will bite or snap, but overall canine aggression is a much more serious problem. If your dog has aggressive tendencies, consult your vet first as it may stem from a health problem. Then, seek the help of an experienced dog trainer or behaviourist. Serious measures should be taken to keep others safe from aggressive dogs.
Read more How to Stop Aggression in Dogs.
Dogs eat faeces for many reasons; it can be a normal (while distasteful to us) dog behaviour. Young dogs may watch their mother clean them (who ingests faeces as a result), and mimic her. Fear may even cause your dog to eat faeces if he's afraid of the repercussions. Then again, your dog may just be curious. He may smell certain scents in the faeces and wonder what it tastes like.
Eating poop can also be an instinctive solution to a nutritional deficiency. Make sure you feed your dog a well-balanced food like Hill's Science Diet, so you can completely rule out malnutrition as a reason for his eating waste. Contact your veterinarian especially if your dog is losing weight as well.
Dogs who can't stop walking in circles may have a health issue. Yes, sometimes it's fun to chase your tail, but if your pup can't shake the compulsion, there's a problem beneath the surface. Ear infections may cause circling, but compulsive tail chasing may occur with bull terriers
Of course there may be other reasons your buddy is circling. Older dogs may suffer from idiopathic vestibular syndrome, and, not to alarm you, but all dogs are at risk for poisoning or a brain tumour. Only your vet can determine the cause of your dog's circling, so get them in for a check-up.
Have you ever watched your dog drag themselves across the floor…..with their bottoms on the ground? It may seem funny (or kind of disgusting). But it is also called scooting, and it means there's something irritating your dog's anus. It's possible that your pup's anal sacs are full and need to be expressed.
If your dog's anal sacs aren't backed up, the problem could be irritation for some other reason. Allergies may only show up as an itchy rear. While it's common to blame worms, it is an uncommon reason for the behaviour. Check with your veterinarian to be sure your pal is on an appropriate parasite prevention program.
If your dog is a grass-eater, or likes to lick around the house, could have strands of grass or hair trapped in his anus that he's rubbing the ground to get out. This is the least-severe reason for scooting but the easiest for you to help him take care of.
Finally, if your dog is scooting after they poop, then they might need to clean their butt! They could have a piece of poop dangling behind them or some faeces trapped in their coat. Be sure to check your dog’s butt if they scoot to make sure they’re free of unwanted waste. Plus, the last thing you’d want is for that extra poop to get all over your clean carpet.