Why is my dog behaving badly?

Posted on: September 09, 2013

Bad Behavior in Dogs

Do you suspect your dog of acting out? Is your dog behaving badly, or are his actions causing you frustration? Understanding the causes of your dog’s behavior can help you begin to explore ways to correct it.

Here are a few remedies for troubling behavior:

Pulling on the Leash

When your dog is on his leash, ask him to heel, and then move forward while the leash is loose. If he pulls on the leash at all, stop right away and don't move. When your dog turns to look back, call him back to heel position and start again. If he pulls on the leash, stop and repeat the process. Move forward only when the leash is loose.

Going to the Bathroom Where He Shouldn't

If your dog is suddenly going where he shouldn't, consult your veterinarian. He may have a health issue and it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Even well trained dogs sometimes have accidents or go where they shouldn't. Clean the area with a pet odor neutralizer so your dog won't be tempted to repeat his mistake. Here are some tips to help prevent accidents:

  • Avoid making sudden changes in your dog's diet.
  • Avoid giving your dog late night snacks.
  • Make sure he spends enough time outdoors.

Excessive Barking

There are many reasons why your dog might be barking - separation anxiety, loneliness, protecting his territory or even just inviting you to play. If you suspect that his barking is due to a larger problem, address that issue in addition to working on this behavior. To reduce or eliminate barking while you're away, work on crate training your dog. While you're at home, say a firm "no" and reward your dog with praise when he stops barking. Remember that any action to deter your dog from barking must be taken while he is barking. After-the-fact corrective action only confuses him. Use a strong, firm voice, but avoid yelling.

Chewing and Digging

If your dog chews on something that is off-limits, say "no" or "eh" in a low voice, then immediately give your dog a safe chew toy. Praise him for good behavior. Remember to give your dog safe chew toys instead of household items like old shoes, because they could encourage him to chew on new shoes as well.

During the summer months, if your dog digs a hole to cool himself, consider providing a cool location for him during the day, such as an umbrella or other source of shade. Also, make sure that fresh drinking water is always available to him.

Some dogs will dig under a fence to get out of the yard. Ideally, a fence should fit tightly to the ground or be buried a few inches underneath it in order to prevent a dog's crawling or digging out from under it. 

If you find it virtually impossible to discourage your dog from digging, provide him with a "digging area." When your dog digs in this designated area, praise and reward him with attention or a treat. If your dog digs outside this area and is caught in the act, a firm "no" is usually enough of a deterrent.

Resource Guarding

First, evaluate how generalized the situation is. Is your dog always trying to protect resources, is he just protecting a specific toy, or is he acting this way only during mealtimes? If fights break out only around mealtime or when a certain toy comes out, a simple management solution may be the answer.

"A suitable management option may be to feed the dogs in separate areas or rooms of your home," explains Lindsay Wood, behaviorist at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. "If tension occurs only when chewing special chew-bones or playing with a specific toy, the dogs should enjoy their individual toys or bones in separate areas and be reintroduced to one another only after all remnants of the bones have been finished and the toys removed." 

If the problem is more generalized, or if the intensity of the guarding behavior is high, you may have to consult with a dog behavior expert.

Use this as a general guide to understanding and correcting your dog’s bad behavior. We hope the advice and tips above are a helpful starting point for addressing your dog’s more puzzling actions.

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