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What are the top 6 dog behaviour problems? Get a complete overview!

Black dog with one ear up advice © Shutterstock

Every pet owner needs to understand the nature of the most common dog problem behaviours. Only then will they be in a position to solve and prevent them.

By Daniel Mar

There are many common dog problem behaviours which are often misunderstood or mishandled by dog owners. If you are new at being a pet parent, it is important to learn about these problems because each of these is caused by a different reason. 

What are dog behaviour problems?


According to vets, aggression and scavenging are the two most common dog behaviour problems. Furthermore, there are many other pet ‘habits’ which owners consider harmful or inappropriate. It’s also important to note that some behaviours considered inappropriate for some owners, are acceptable for others. At the end of the day, it is up to you! Only you can make sure that your dog behaves in the way that you want him to.

Causes of problem behaviours in dogs

There are many causes of behaviour problems in dogs. They range from boredom or malnutrition to injury or illness. Unfortunately, some individuals may also be predisposed to develop behaviour issues, while others might have gone through difficult early life experiences. There are times when the owner might unknowingly send the wrong signals to their dog. Dogs are creatures of habit, so if you let them think that what they are doing is right (even if it isn’t), they will continue to do so. This applies to most dog behaviours! For example, if your dog whines, barks or howls and he gets your attention, you play with him, or feed him, he will think that such behaviour is fine.

Top 6 dog problem behaviours

Bark

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.

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.

Digging

Most dogs like to dig. It's a matter of instinct. Generally, most dogs dig for these reasons:

  • Boredom
  • Anxiety
  • Hunting instinct
  • Creating a resting place
  • Hiding things
  • To escape

It is normal to feel frustrated when your dog digs up your yard. You will need to understand the underlying motivation in order to meet your dog’s needs. Nonetheless, don’t punish your dog, try to spend more time with your dog, give him more exercise.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the most common dog behaviour problems. Signs of true separation anxiety include:

  • The dog is anxious when the owner prepares to leave.
  • Destruction begins at least 30 minutes after the owner leaves.
  • The dog always tries to follow the owner on his/her way out

To cure separation anxiety, you must habituate your dog to being left alone. Get your things ready without actually leaving the house. Then leave the house, but only for a few seconds. Do this repeatedly and for longer periods of time as you go along. You can leave the TV/radio on and shut the blinds to help your dog feel safer. In rare occasions, vets might prescribe medication.

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.