Being new to dog ownership can often lead to mishandling or misinterpreting behavioral cues. These disruptive and troublesome behaviors can exacerbate without immediate attention, eventually straining your relationship with your canine companion.
If your dog is eating what it shouldn’t be, digging up your flowerbeds, or demonstrating aggressive behavior towards neighbors, don’t panic—these behaviors are easy to correct. Below are a few more common behavioral problems and how to address them.
Barking is natural and, in some cases, enjoyable for your dog—until their frequent vocalization becomes bothersome. While it may be tempting to bark back at your dog after whining or howling, this tactic only encourages them to return the noise—and even louder.
What You Should Do: Condition your dog to respond to a “quiet” command. When training your dog to “speak,” reward it a few seconds after fulfilling the order. Then, follow up with verbal reinforcement and a delectable reward.
Aggression in dogs doesn’t always equate to an immediate attack. Instead, your dog may be demonstrating “warning” behaviors—these include3 baring its teeth or “defending” its belongings such as a bowl.
Neglect, abuse, and negatively reinforced dogs have a higher tendency to become aggressive. While it may be intuitive to restrain an aggressive animal, it may cause the behavior to escalate.
What You Should Do: If your dog poses an immediate danger to those around you, contact animal control. Then, consult with a behavioral specialist or veterinarian—your dog could be suffering from a health condition that exacerbates aggressive tendencies.
Digging is an inherently canine instinct. In particular, terriers with hunting histories are predisposed to digging. However, frequent digging could also be the consequence of several deeper issues: boredom, anxiety, excess energy, and loneliness.
What You Should Do: While it may seem most productive to keep your dog out of your yard, doing so can create restlessness and even encourage more destructive behavior. Instead, consider what might be causing this behavior and eliminate the source. Alternatively, you can dedicate an area for digging or equip an area of your home with a sandbox!
Some breeds are more independent than others—but every dog experiences a level of separation anxiety. When left to their devices for more extended periods, neglected animals will become severely anxious, misbehave, or become overly attached to their owner.
What You Should Do: To reverse the effects of separation anxiety, owners should put their dogs through dedicated training and behavior modification. In extreme cases, the animal may require medication or re-homing.
Similar to digging, chewing is purely instinctual. However, excessive chewing can lead to destructive behavior and potentially damage your furniture and other belongings. If your dog is gnawing inordinately, it could be teething, curious, or anxious.
What You Should Do: Revert your dog’s attention to a chew toy appropriate for their age. When out of your home, confine your dog to an area where it cannot access your personal belongings.
The Bottom Line
While some less-than-welcome dog behaviors are entirely natural, others can become challenging to control. Dogs require an appropriate level of training, care, and attention to remain well-rounded and behaved. If you are new to pet ownership, consider a breed that best suits your lifestyle.
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