Whether you’re looking into correcting dog behavior, or you are a dog walker wanting to help reinforce training, or maybe just simply curious about why your dog does what he or she does, you are at the right place! Before we can truly understand a dog behavior problem we must understand what’s considered “normal” behavior. Although all dogs generally have similar dispositions in behaviors, breed, training, and exposure does influence many different traits. It’s important as a pet owner or pet caregiver to educate yourself on animal behavior in order to help with any issues that could present themselves.
So what are some dog behavior issues that we may encounter?
Aggression, nipping and play biting, separation anxiety and destructive chewing.
Dog Behavior Issue #1:
This is the most common and also most serious behavioral issue that often times requires professional intervention if it progresses. “Aggression” can encompass many things. So what can aggression look like?
- Showing teeth
- Lunging forward
- Rigid stance
- Quick nip
- Quick bite
- Biting that causes bruising or puncture wounds
Many times pet owners don’t recognize the warning signs. When their pet does spring into action, they’re shocked to see them ‘flying off the handle,’ when in reality the animal was strongly advising that something was wrong. Unfortunately, misunderstandings with aggression can lead to the animal being put down or surrendered; so it’s imperative to really hone in on what is causing this behavior to begin with and what you can do to stop it.
The first step in helping you identify where the aggression is coming from is knowing the different classifications that exist:
- Territorial aggression
- Fear-induced aggression
- Pain-induced aggression
- Maternal aggression
- Predatory aggression
- Conflict-related aggression
- Inter-male aggression
Thinking of aggression in these terms can help determine the underlying factor of what motivates your dog to react to a certain action. This can help you identify what they hope to gain by displaying this aggressive behavior. Observe and learn from each encounter you have and ask yourself questions: What triggers were present? What are the usual targets? What else was going on at the time? When and where did this happen? Answering these questions can give you the best insight on how to begin to help your dog.
Always work with an expert! Your veterinarian, an ethnologist or a professional behavior expert are best qualified to develop a personalized treatment plan for your dog’s specific needs. They can also assist with coaching and monitoring progress that is made along the way. If your dog needs even further care, companies like Canine Concierge cater to YOUR individualized needs and are more than willing to work with or assist with any training or routine plans you have in place for your dog.
Dog Behavior Issue #2:
Nipping and Play Biting
Dogs spend a lot of their time playing, investigating and chewing. Puppies first learn by using their mouths so it’s normal to see puppy and adult dogs still following suit. When playtime rolls around, mouthing, biting and chewing on hands, limbs and clothes can occur. While it is a common consensus that playing using your mouth will result in some nibbling, it’s not a behavior you want to encourage.
It’s very important at a young age to encourage your puppy to be gentle and control their bite inhibition. They don’t understand the sensitivity of human skin so chewing on their toy will seem no different to them as chewing on your arm. As a dog walker, I can tell you there’s a huge difference! They still haven’t learned the strength of their bite and the force they can exhibit. Let’s say your adult dog is having these behavioral issues…can you really teach an old dog a new trick? You absolutely can! Adult dogs who mouth most likely weren’t taught in puppy-hood that they shouldn’t.
It’s extremely beneficial for the training process that you establish what is and what is not acceptable. The ultimate goal is to completely stop biting and mouthing; so what are some tactics you can use for training?
- Encourage non-contact play (tug of war, fetch, etc.).
- Substitute a toy if the dog begins to chew your fingers.
- Keep interesting and new toys around for your dog to play with.
- Give your dog the chance to interact and play with other puppies and friendly adult dogs.
- Give verbal cues such as “No” or “Ouch!” and “No teeth” if your dog bites or nips you. Be consistent with your cues.
- Do time-outs.
- Ignore dog for 30-60 seconds immediately after feeling their teeth on skin. If they persist with the behavior or try to get your attention leave the room for 30-60 seconds (just make sure the room is dog proof) and re-enter and proceed with whatever you two were doing.
- Be patient. Understand your dog is learning and depends on you to show them the way.
Dog Behavior Issue #3:
Dogs are highly sociable and develop strong bonds with their owners. In some cases, however, the bond is so strong that the dog feels anxiety when separated. This is known as separation anxiety that could actually lead to destructive dog behavior. Urinating, defecating, howling, chewing or trying to escape is a few examples of behaviors dogs could exhibit. Some dogs may get anxious while others get agitated. The most important thing when trying to help your dog who shows signs of separation anxiety is to resolve the underlying anxiousness of being alone. Teach them that it’s okay and maybe even enjoyable to be left alone.
To help your dog with their anxiety counter conditioning is a great treatment process to change their fearful and anxious reaction into a pleasant and relaxed one. Repetition and patience are two things very much needed on your part with counter conditioning as you will be repeating many things over and over until your dog begins to learn that whatever they fear actually brings them good things.
A great example of how you can develop this is every time you leave the house you offer your dog a high praised food or treat to munch on while you’re away. KONGs work great as you can fill them with delicious yummies and goodies to entertain your dog. Make sure you fill the KONG with food that will take a while for him or her to get through. To further extend this time you could also freeze your KONG. Just remember to remove these special items when you return home so the association begins to form. (Hooman leave → I get KONG goodie) (Hooman home → No KONG goodie).
Dog Behavior Issue #4:
Chewing is very beneficial to both puppies and adult dogs. For puppies, it helps relieve pains from incoming teeth and for adult dogs, it helps keep teeth strong and clean. It’s also the way both explore their surroundings and even helps with reducing anxiety. We all have that one tick we do when we’re stressed, and dogs do too! But when does chewing become a problem? Where does that problem come from?
- Lack of stimulation
- Stress or frustration
- Separation Anxiety
Lack of stimulation
Dogs get bored! They need a consistency in their everyday lives but also some entertainment. Bored dogs will try to find ways to entertain themselves and chewing is certainly an option for them. Daily walks, field trips, play, training classes, dog sports, food puzzles are great things to implement in your dog’s routine. If work or other obligations keep you away or limited on time check out dog walking companies like Canine Concierge. “Concierge” meaning 24/7 service tailored to your needs.
Stress and Frustration
Stress chewing adds an extra element to the problem. First, investigate what is frustrating or stressing your dog out for them to engage in this behavior. The best thing to do with this type of scenario is to observe. What’s going on around the dog? When and where did he or she begin to exhibit inappropriate chewing? What was different about their routine today? The best action for this problem is to anticipate when these stressors or frustrations might occur. When they do, proactively lead your dog’s attention to something else; give them a toy or a bone to chew on instead.
As previously discussed dogs develop strong bonds with their owners that often times lead to them feeling fearful, anxious and depressed when separated. Many times they show these feelings via destructive chewing. Think of a baby, who wants attention; they begin to cry until their parent rushes over and picks them up. That’s why it’s important to establish a healthy association with the separation. Counter conditioning is the most effective method for achieving that.
Just like us, teething is a normal process all dogs go through. Unfortunately, it isn’t the most pleasant. Chewing is intensified at this time and necessary to help alleviate teething pains. Guidance on your part can mean the difference between the chair leg and a chew toy. Provide your puppy with ice cubes, a frozen towel or washcloth or special toys that could help ease and numb their pain and teach them that these items are appropriate objects to chew on. Consistency is key!
Trust, a reward system, reprimanding and consistency are all needed for dog behavior training to be effective. An animal’s trust in its caregiver’s confidence and ability to command is imperative. Rewards encourage and reinforce good behavior while reprimands discourage unwanted behavior. Being consistent creates a stable and predictable environment for your dog. Above all, your interest and patience determine how well your dog learns. Happy teaching!
Let us know what techniques worked for you below!