Most Dog Behavior Problems

Dog growling

Dog behavior problems are often misunderstood or mishandled by dog owners. Perhaps you are new to dog ownership, considering getting a dog, or just wish to help your dog with a challenging issue. Thoroughly understanding the most common dog behavior problems is the first step to solving and preventing them. A solid foundation of obedience training will help you prevent or better control many of these issues.

Domesticated dogs today are much better today than 10,000 years ago at behaving the way humans wish for them to behave. Even so, there are many canine behaviors that are instinctive to them and may become an issue for pet owners, whether it’s an inconvenience or even dangerous.


German Shepherd Dog Barking

Most dogs vocalize in one way or another. They may bark, howl, whine, and more. Excessive barking is considered a behavior problem.

Before you can correct excessive barking, determine why your dog is vocalizing in the first place. The most common types of barking are:

  • Warning or alert
  • Playfulness and excitement
  • Attention-seeking
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Responding to other dogs

Learn to control excessive barking. Consider teaching them bark/quiet commands. Be consistent and patient. Address any underlying causes of barking. Dedication and attention to detail can go a long way to stop a dog from barking.

Excessive Barking

Barking by itself is not a problem behavior in dogs – they bark for many different reasons and it’s a natural way of communication for them. Some reasons for barking in dogs may even be useful to you as an owner. For instance, you may want your dog to bark to warn you that somebody is lurking in the backyard. Excessive barking is when this becomes a truly problematic behavior when your pet continues to bark constantly and consistently without any good reason (obvious to you) to do so.

How to fix it.

This is yet another case where obedience training, redirection, and training of new habits in your dog is the most effective tool. To resolve unwanted and excessive barking in your dog, you must first establish the cause of it and what situations make your dog bark. After that, try to eliminate those causes first if possible.

Then, teach your pooch how to handle that situation more appropriately and/or desensitize the dog to those triggers. For example, if your dog barks when someone is at the door, turn that behavior into a productive behavior: teach the dog to bark a few times, and then wait quietly by the door to see who’s there.

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Dog Nelly Toys

Chewing is a natural action for all dogs. In fact, chewing is an important activity for most dogs; it’s just part of the way they are wired. However, excessive chewing can quickly become a behavior problem if your dog causes destruction. The most common reasons dogs chew include:1

  • Puppy teething
  • Boredom or excess energy
  • Anxiety
  • Curiosity (especially puppies)

Encourage your dog to chew on the right things by providing plenty of appropriate chew toys. Keep personal items away from your dog. When you are not home, keep your dog crated or confined to an area where less destruction can be caused.

If you catch your dog chewing the wrong thing, quickly distract your dog with a sharp noise. Then, replace the item with a chew toy. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure your dog gets plenty of exercises so it can wear off energy and be stimulated in that way rather than turning to chew.

Destructive Chewing

Dogs use their mouths like humans use their hands to explore and interact with the world around them. Similar to barking and digging, chewing is a natural behavior in canines but can become problematic when it is destructive. Sometimes, dog behavioral problem of excessive chewing stems from medical issues or severe separation anxiety, which is when a veterinarian’s or canine behaviorist’s help may be needed.

How to fix it.

Make sure your dog has plenty of access to appropriate chewing outlets, like interesting and tasty chew toys. Block off access to wires, cords, papers, or anything else your dog might have been using as an inappropriate chewing outlet. If your dog still ends up chewing the wrong things, it might mean he is bored or under-exercised.

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cane corso digging a hole

Digging is not only one of the most common behavior problems in dogs but it’s also a natural instinct of your domesticated animal which isn’t always easy to fix and completely remove from the dog. Most dogs love digging to one degree or another, and usually, it’s best not to stop this behavior but rather redirect them away from inappropriate digging places and onto where it’s safe and okay to dig.

If given the chance, most dogs will do some amount of digging; it’s a matter of instinct. Certain dog breeds, like terriers, are more prone to digging because of their hunting histories. In general, most dogs dig for these reasons:

  • Boredom or excess energy
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Hunting instinct
  • Comfort-seeking (such as nesting or cooling off)
  • Desire to hide possessions (like bones or toys)
  • To escape or gain access to an area

It can get rather frustrating if your dog likes to dig up your yard. Try and determine the cause of the digging, then work to eliminate that source. Give your dog more exercise, spend more quality time together, and work on extra training. If digging seems inevitable, set aside an area where your dog can freely dig, like a sandbox. Train your dog that it is acceptable to dig in this area only.

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Separation Anxiety

English Bulldog Dog emotional upset

Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly discussed dog behavior problems. Manifestations include vocalization, chewing, inappropriate urination and defecation, and other forms of destruction that occur when a dog is separated from its owner. Not all of these actions are the result of separation anxiety. Signs of true separation anxiety include:

  • The dog becomes anxious when the owner prepares to leave.
  • Misbehavior occurs in the first 15 to 45 minutes after the owner leaves.
  • The dog wants to follow the owner around constantly.
  • The dog tries to be touching the owner whenever possible.

True separation anxiety requires dedicated training, behavior modification, and desensitization exercises. Medication may be recommended in extreme cases.

An extremely common dog behavior problem isn’t exactly a behavior problem but rather a mental health issue for dogs – separation anxiety. This commonly discussed issue is often the cause for many other canine behavioral problems, such as inappropriate elimination, destructive chewing, excessive barking, and any other forms of expression that dogs use to relieve themselves from separation anxiety.

How to fix it:

Separation anxiety can be extremely uncomfortable for the dog, much more so than for the owner. This issue needs to be addressed with training at first, but if that doesn’t work, the help of a professional behaviorist might be needed, as well as anxiety aids in the form of medication (some even suggest Prozac, the one prescribed for humans, as an effective medication) which are very effective at calming dogs down, and then anxiety vests to relieve the discomfort and other methods.

In terms of training, the best way to start dealing with this common dog behavior issue is to teach your pet that you will always be back: start with leaving the room for 5 to 10 minutes, then come back; extend this time frame based on your dog’s reaction. In the meantime, use toys for separation anxiety to avoid having your dog destroy your shoes. You can even leave the TV or radio on for your pet.

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Inappropriate Elimination

Inappropriate urination and defecation are among the most frustrating dog behaviors. They can damage areas of your home and make your dog unwelcome in public places or at the homes of others. It is most important that you discuss this behavior with your veterinarian first to rule out health problems. If no medical cause is found, try to determine the reason for the behavior, which can come down to one of the following:

  • Submissive/excitement urination
  • Territorial marking
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of proper housebreaking

Inappropriate elimination is unavoidable in puppies, especially before 12 weeks of age. Older dogs are another story. Many dogs require serious behavior modification to rid them of the habit once it becomes ingrained.

Here’s a common dog behavior problem that is universally agreed upon as one of the worst – inappropriate urination or defecation of dogs. Not only does this ruin furniture and carpets at home as well as spread unpleasant odor all over the house, but pets who cannot control their elimination behavior are preventing you from taking them out as well more often to new places.

How to fix it:

Understand that inappropriate elimination in dogs can be not only a behavioral problem but a medical condition too, especially as incontinence in senior dogs. Therefore, it’s vital for you to discuss this case with your veterinarian as soon as you discover it. Once your vet has ruled out any health problems as the reason for a dog’s inappropriate elimination, there is only one thing you need to do to fix this difficult issue – training (or retraining) the dog.

Inappropriate elimination is a lack of understanding by the dog why they cannot relieve themselves anywhere they wish. You would need to go back to housebreaking basics, the same ones you’ve used for training a puppy, and go through with your adult or senior dog about appropriate ways of elimination. Remember that for puppies under the age of 12 weeks, inappropriate elimination is normal and is difficult to “fix” instantly. In the meantime, you can use dog diapers to limit the amount of soiling your pet does.

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Dog begging for scraps of food oustide a bar

Begging is a bad habit, but many dog owners actually encourage it. This can lead to digestive problems and obesity.

Dogs beg because they love food. However, table scraps are not treats, and food is not loved. Yes, it is hard to resist that longing look, but giving in “just this once” creates a problem in the long run. When you teach your dog that begging is permitted, you are sending the wrong message.

Before you sit down to eat, tell your dog to go to its place, preferably where it will not be able to stare at you. If necessary, confine your dog to another room. If it behaves, give it a special treat only after you and your family are completely finished eating.

Begging for Food

A dog begging you for food is definitely one of the most common dog behavior problems that many pet owners face on a regular basis, possibly even multiple times a day. This is just an unfortunate side effect of loving your own dogs to an extent that you would like to give them everything that they ask for, and the more you do it, the worse this behavior will become. Dogs know that people cannot resist puppy eyes, and they use them to manipulate us.

How to fix it:

To resolve the problem of your dog’s begging, teach your pet that begging for food will not result in food. It’s as simple as that. You must ignore the dog when they’re begging, and do not give him any food when you are eating at the table. Be patient and consistent. Do not reprimand your dog for begging, as the attention he receives may reinforce this behavior. Remember that this is an ongoing process, and even after long-term practice, if you cave in – the process will need to be started from the beginning.

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Dog chasing Drone

A dog’s desire to chase moving things is simply a display of predatory instinct. Many dogs will chase other animals, people, and cars. All of these can lead to dangerous and devastating outcomes. While you may not be able to stop your dog from trying to chase, you can take steps to prevent disaster.

  • Keep your dog confined or on a leash at all times (unless directly supervised indoors).
  • Train your dog to come when called.
  • Have a dog whistle or noisemaker on hand to get your dog’s attention.
  • Stay aware and watch for potential triggers, like joggers.

Your best chance at success is to keep the chase from getting out of control. Dedicated training over the course of your dog’s life will teach him to focus his attention on you first, before running off.

Chasing After Moving Things

Another part of a dog’s instincts is their predatory habits which they can hardly control. Depending on the breed’s prey drive, chasing after moving things is one of those common dog behavior problems that the majority will have. Your Fido probably loves to chase after cats, cars, squirrels, bicycles, little kids, or any other animals or humans for no apparent reason. While this is normal behavior, this can sometimes lead to dangerous consequences.

How to fix it

Canine behaviorists know that there is no way trying to stop a dog from chasing things completely, but you can try to prevent anything bad from happening as the outcome of your pet’s need to chase. You can also slightly decrease the need for the dog to chase and desensitize them to certain distractions.

  • Socialize your pet to desensitize them to the daily world and the environment. Get your dog comfortable to be around all these “moving things” so that your pooch understands they’re part of the environment they’re living in.
  • When outside in an environment that poses potential dangers such as cars or other animals, make sure to keep your dog on a leash (and that he’s leash-trained).
  • Train your dog basic commands and be good at listening to obedience cues, and especially “No”, “Stay” and “Come” when called.
  • Always be on the lookout for any possible triggers that will set off your pooch: cats, wildlife, bicycles, joggers, cars, or other attractive and quickly moving distractions.
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Jumping Up

red long coated dog jumping

Jumping up is a common and natural behavior in dogs. Puppies jump up to reach and greet their mothers. Later, they may jump up when greeting people. Dogs may also jump up when excited or seeking an item in the person’s hands. A jumping dog can be annoying and even dangerous.

There are many methods to stop a dog’s jumping, but not all will be successful. Lifting a knee, grabbing the paws, or pushing the dog away might work in some cases, but for most dogs, this sends the wrong message. Jumping up is often attention-seeking behavior, so any acknowledgment of your dog’s actions provides an instant reward, reinforcing the jumping.

The best method is to simply turn away and ignore your dog. Walk away if necessary. Do not make eye contact, speak, or touch your dog. Go about your business. When he relaxes and remains still, calmly reward him. It won’t take long before your dog gets the message.

Jumping Up on People

When dogs meet other dogs, they greet one another by sniffing each other’s behinds and faces. Dogs would like to do the same thing with humans, but human faces are inconveniently located all the way to the top of our bodies. Jumping up on people, for dogs, is often an attempt to behave according to normal doggy etiquette. Sometimes, however, this can be a sign of dominance. Either way, this problematic behavior is rarely welcomed by strangers and should generally be fixed before it becomes dangerous.

How to fix it

To resolve this common dog behavior problem, ignore your pooch when you come home until she stops trying to jump up at you. Do not shout, do not call for your dog to stop, and do not push her away either. Any of those behaviors will likely excite the dog, and encourage jumping even more because it looks like a play to them. Start petting and praising your dog only after her feet land back on the ground so that she learns that her jumping up was the reason you were ignoring her.

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Dogs bite and nip for several reasons, most of which are instinctive. Puppies bite and nip to explore the environment. Mother dogs teach their puppies not to bite too hard and discipline them when needed. These bones bite inhibition. Owners often need to show their puppies that mouthing and biting are not acceptable by continuing to teach bite inhibition.

Beyond puppy behavior, dogs may bite for several reasons. The motivation to bite or snap is not necessarily about aggression. A dog may snap, nip, or bite for a variety of reasons.

  • Fear
  • Defensiveness
  • Protection of property
  • Pain or sickness
  • Predatory instinct

Any dog may bite if the circumstances warrant it in the dog’s mind. Owners and breeders are the ones who can help decrease the tendency for any type of dog to bite through proper training, socialization, and breeding practices.

Constant Biting

There are many different reasons why dogs have the behavioral problem of biting. Dog experts agree that this is mostly due to their instincts of living in packs. Young dogs, on the other hand, bite everything and everybody as a means for exploring the world, understanding the environment, and learning about their own place. Nonetheless, this dog behavior should be prevented when possible, especially in puppies, because it’s likely to become a much bigger problem as the dog grows bigger.

How to fix it

Although dog biting comes from the fact canines are still animals that use their mouth the way we use hands, regular proper training and socialization can fix this. Spending time with your pet and letting them socialize with other animals and strangers will help in fixing this problem the most. Expose your dog to different settings, places, and new things and whenever you’ll see your pooch getting uncomfortable, don’t ignore it and attempt to switch that around. In short, this is a habit that can be changed with some constant supervision and work.

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Dog aggression is exhibited by growling, snarling, showing teeth, lunging, and biting. It is important to know that any dog has the potential to show aggression, regardless of breed or history. However, dogs with violent or abusive histories and those bred from dogs with aggressive tendencies are much more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior towards people or other dogs.

Unfortunately, some breeds are labeled “dangerous” and banned in certain areas. However, it’s not usually about the breed so much as it’s about history. A dog’s environment has a major impact on behavior. Also, regardless of breed, a dog may inherit some aggressive traits. Fortunately, most experts agree that breed-specific legislation is not the answer.

Reasons for aggression are basically the same as the reasons a dog will bite or snap, but overall canine aggression is a much more serious problem. If your dog has aggressive tendencies, consult your vet first as it may stem from a health problem. Then, seek the help of an experienced dog trainer or behaviorist. Serious measures should be taken to keep others safe from aggressive dogs.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet’s health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
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 Stealing Things

This is probably the most common one of dog behavior problems. Our canine companions will usually steal anything that interests them and what can be reached. This isn’t even as much of a problem as general understandable animal behavior. All dogs “steal” and it’s hard to prevent this, so when you’re preparing to adopt a pet, consider things that they will reach out for when you’re not around and dog-proof you’re home.

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Rough Play

Dogs love to play with other dogs as well as with people; however, sometimes this playtime can get out of hand very quickly and transition into something that can hurt you, other pets, or your kids. Rough play in dogs is fine between canines in most cases, but it must be stopped immediately once you feel that your pooch is out of control among other animals or people. It’s also important to distinguish a play from “almost a fight” and approach it more carefully if the two dogs are fighting.

About Alpha Roll

Puppy Development From 8 to 12 Weeks

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common behavioral disorder in dogs?

Aggression is the most common and most serious behavior problem in dogs. Different forms of aggression require different treatments.

What is the most common behavioral disorder in dogs?

1-Training is key. Teaching your dog to sit, come, or lie down may not seem related to a barking, jumping, or chewing problem, but it is. ... 2-Exercise helps release energy. ... 3-Prevent your pup from learning bad behaviors. 4-Reward desired behaviors. ... 5-Consistency makes the difference.

What are abnormal behaviours in dogs?

Stereotypies observed in kennelled dogs include circling, pacing, whirling, jumping, wall bouncing, repetitive grooming or self-biting, polydipsia or polyphagia, compulsive staring and an excessive propensity towards certain behaviours such as barking (see Hubrecht et al.

What causes sudden behavior changes in dogs?

Health issues that can change your dog's behavior include arthritis, hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, sore teeth, thyroid problems, epilepsy/seizures, ear infections, digestive issues, skin or environmental allergies, yeast infections, hearing loss, eyesight loss, and cancer.

Can dogs have mental behavior problems?

It's also true that dogs develop mental illness. Dogs can acquire forms of anxiety (especially separation anxiety when left alone or apart from their owner), compulsive disorders, many fears and phobias and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most veterinarians are trained to deal with these conditions


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