8 common behavioural issues and how to tackle them

8 common behavioural issues and how to tackle them

All good pet parents want a well-mannered, well-adjusted pooch but sometimes a dog will behave in a less than desirable way. This can be worrying for their owner, especially if they’ve only recently got the dog. However, most behavioural issues can be tackled fairly simply.

Housetraining issues

The first thing to say here is that if you’ve only just brought your furry friend home from the shelter and they’re eliminating where you’d rather they didn’t, it could simply be because they’re feeling stressed and anxious about the change of environment. In fact, even a dog who is normally well housetrained might have a couple of accidents in the early days. If, however, you’ve had your pooch longer and are still having difficulties, you’ll want to look at housetraining them. Routine really helps here. Try to get up at the same time every morning and take your dog out straightaway. Then, make sure you stick to set mealtimes, again followed by going outside. In between these times, keep your eye out for signs your furry friend may need to go to the loo. These include circling, sniffing and pacing. A keyword or phrase such as “outside” or “do your business” will also help your dog to learn. Never tell your dog off if they have an accident but do offer lots of praise for successful toileting.

Aggressive behaviour

All dogs can display aggression regardless of their breed or their history, but it’s likely to be more of an issue for a dog who has a violent or abusive history. This is the sort of problem that can really benefit from expert help so do talk to the shelter you adopted from to get their advice. They may even offer specific training to help your dog be a bit more chilled-out. In the meantime, it’s obviously important to be cautious. Keep your canine companion on the lead for walks and consider using a muzzle. Also, never ever leave the dog alone with a child unsupervised. (This advice holds true even if a dog has never shown any signs of aggression. A pulled tail or the like can make even the most patient, gentle animal snap).

Separation anxiety

Some dogs struggle when their owners leave them, even if it’s not for long. This might manifest itself in your furry friend behaving anxiously when they think you’re about to go out or even indulging in destructive behaviour when alone. Typically, a dog who suffers from separation anxiety will follow their owner around too. The trick here is to gently get your dog used to the idea of being without you for short periods of time and learn that you always come back. Invest in a baby gate to keep your dog in one room and then leave them alone for a very short period of time but stay in the house. A chew toy can make a good distraction and stop your pooch from chewing things you’d rather they didn’t! Once your dog is used to being on their own for short periods of time, you can gradually leave them alone for a bit longer.

Resource guarding

Resource guarding is when a dog tries to protect their food, toys, bed or favourite spot from other pets or humans in the household. Unsurprisingly, it’s more likely to be an issue if a dog has had to compete for things in the past. One of the ways to tackle this is to offer your dog a “trade up” – a treat when they are eating their regular dinner or a better toy than the one they have. This teaches your little student that good things can come of not being quite so protective of what’s theirs. 

Shy or nervous behaviour

Do you have a dog that frequently seems anxious or fearful, maybe when they encounter new people, other dogs or new environments? 

If so, it’s worth being mindful of the fact that some dogs, just like some people, are inherently shy individuals. If you pooch is one of those, it’s worth looking at the situations and environments that seem to make them overly anxious and, if possible, avoiding those.

Positive socialisation is also important. Just check out our article on Socialisation: Taking on the world one paw at a time

Destructive behaviour

Chewing and digging are both natural behaviours for dogs and ones they get a huge amount of pleasure from. But what happens if they’re chewing or digging things you’d rather they didn’t? Your brand new shoes, for example, or your freshly-planted bed of Geraniums. The key is to try to understand if there is a particular reason (beyond natural instinct) why your dog is chewing or digging. Is it down to separation anxiety or boredom? If so, you need to tackle those issues. If there are no underlying problems that need to be addressed, it’s simply a matter of providing your dog with plenty of attractive chewing or digging opportunities, such as chew toys or a sandpit in the garden.

Excessive barking

The simple fact is that dogs bark. However, if this becomes excessive it’s likely to become a problem for you, not to mention your neighbours! Dogs bark excessively for lots of different reasons including boredom, excitement, distress, territorial defence and fear and anxiety. The trick therefore is to try to work out what the underlying cause is and then work on tackling that. 

Disobedience 

If your dog doesn’t come when called or respond to other basic commands, then some training is in order. The good news is you can train a dog of any age. Just check out our article Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Don’t be afraid to ask the shelter for advice either. Not only are they experts on all things dog but they know your four-legged friend well. Some shelters even offer training classes.

As a general rule

Consistency, patience and love go a long way and will help you to tackle any little hiccups you have with your dog.

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