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Everything to know about dog behaviour problems: the pet parent guide!

Two australian shepherd sat on a wall advice
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We know, dogs are the best, but sometimes they can have behavioural problems. Communicating with your dog can be difficult sometimes. If you want to build a good relationship with your pet, learn about important dog behaviour changes.

By Daniel Mar

Dog owners should know that a dog's behaviour tell you plenty about his mood. Even though it is impossible to speak the language of dogs, you do need to know how to interpret dog behaviour changes. Behind most dog behaviours, there are specific explanations. Once you know how to pick up his cues, you'll be able to help him.

Which are the common dog behaviour problems?

Biting

You have probably witnessed that a puppy can nip at you as he learns how to interact with you. This usually happens while playing, since young dogs communicate with their mouths when they interact. But your pup can nip or bite you at other times as well. It's important to stop this behaviour as soon as possible. Dogs can bite out of anxiety, fear, playfulness, excitement or aggression. You need to identify which is the cause before dealing with the problem.

Barking

Almost every dog barks. However, excessive barking is considered a problem behaviour. You need to determine why your dog is vocalising in the first place. The most common types of barking are:

  • Warning
  • Playfulness
  • Attention-seeking
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Responding to other dogs

You can learn to solve excessive barking if you know what causes it. Also, consider teaching your dog about the ‘quiet’ command.

Here is how to teach your dog to stop barking

Circling/spinning

Circling excessively is not normal.  Dogs who can't stop walking in circles may be affected by a health issue. At first, when your pet is in puppyhood, it is normal and sometimes fun to watch him chase his tail. Eventually, this should stop. If your pup can't shake this urge and you cannot interrupt it, there could be an underlying problem. Ear infections can cause circling. Older dogs may suffer from the idiopathic vestibular syndrome.

Digging

Digging is an instinctual behaviour. It is particularly strong in terrier breeds. Centuries ago, dogs used to dig to hide food. Also, they dug to make a den in the cool earth which served as relief from the heat. However, there are times when a dog can’t stop the urge to dig for whatever reason. This is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Eating poop

Dogs eat faeces for many reasons. Sometimes they try to mimic their mother when she cleans them. Fear and stress can cause your dog to eat faeces. Furthermore, your dog could just be curious. On rare occasions, vets agree that eating poop can also be an instinctive solution to a nutritional deficiency. You should talk to your vet if you see this behaviour.

Jumping up

Though it may seem like playful behaviour, jumping up may be inconvenient and sometimes dangerous if a large dog jumps on an elderly person or a child. You need to train your dog to avoid doing this or to control this behaviour, for example by teaching him to jump only on your request.

Scooting

Surely, you have watched your dog drag himself across the floor. At first, it may seem funny, but this means there's something irritating in your dog's anal area. Most times it means that your dog's anal sacs are full and need to be emptied. However, the problem can sometimes be more serious. For example, allergies can cause an itchy rear. Other times you can blame worms or an infection.

Separation related problems

Dogs like company. That’s not a surprise! That is why one of the most concerning dog behaviour changes are separation related problems. As a pet parent, you need to know that it's natural for your dog to feel a bit uncomfortable when he is separated from his social group (meaning you or his family). This can be prevented by habituating your puppy to staying alone.

Yawning

Most times you might think your dog needs some sleep. But dogs are not like humans! A dog yawn doesn't always mean he's tired. Yawning could be a sign of fear or stress. If your dog appears to yawn often, for example in a new situation or a crowded place, you need to be careful because your dog may be uneasy. For some reason, he is not comfortable with the idea of being around that individual.

Once you understand these dog behaviour problems, you will be in a better place to help your dog. Remember that these signs are indications that something is not right! It is your job to figure out what.

Chewing

Chewing is natural for all dogs. Nonetheless, it can become a problem behaviour if directed to the wrong items. The most common reasons why dogs chew are:

  • Puppy getting his teeth
  • Boredom
  • Excess energy
  • Anxiety

Some chewing is necessary. So you can encourage your dog to chew on the right things by providing chew toys. When you are not home, keep away any item that your dog might damage.

Likewise, if you catch your dog chewing on something important to you, don’t punish your dog. Just quickly get his attention with a sharp noise, then replace the item with something more appropriate. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercises.

Begging

Begging is a bad habit that many dog owners encourage. From puppyhood, you must avoid teaching your dog that begging will get them any food or attention. To make sure your dog behaves well while you eat, give him a special treat to chew on or a food-filled toy. This can help to modify this dog behaviour problem.

Chasing

Dogs like to chase moving things. It’s a predatory instinct. But remember that a dog might feel the urge to chase other animals, people, and cars. Sometimes this can lead to dangerous outcomes. Repressing this behaviour is extremely difficult but you can still take steps to prevent disaster:

  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times in areas where he can chase something
  • Teach your dog the ‘come command’.
  • Be watchful for potential triggers.

Final thoughts

Most of these behaviours are normal, but they can become a problem if performed excessively or inappropriately. This is why it’s best to start training your dog the moment they arrive in your home. Set some ground rules. Remember that your dog likes to make you happy. Learn to guide him for better results.

Follow these tips and you should be ready to deal with them! If you find yourself still struggling with your dog’s behaviour, you may need the help of a force-free, science-based dog trainer or pet-behaviour counsellor. Make sure you take your dog to the vet for a general health assessment. In some cases, you may need a referral to a veterinary behaviourist.

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