Published on April 27th, 2017 | by Debbie Martin0
Unwanted Dog Behaviours and How to Prevent Them
However much we dog owners might love our pets, there are some occasions where they do things which we’d really rather they didn’t. In some cases, these habits can be little more than annoyance – but in others, they can be a more serious problem.
Naturally, animal behaviour is a complex thing, with many interacting factors at work. It might be that your dog’s problem behaviour is because you, perhaps unwittingly, have been doing something wrong. It might, on the other hand, be that the dog has picked up these bad habits from elsewhere. Whatever the case, it’s important that action is taken sooner rather than later, as the longer the problem persists for, the more ingrained it will become.
In this article, we’ll run through some of the more obvious undesirable canine behaviours, and look at ways to tackle them. Let’s begin, shall we?
Perhaps the most troubling of all canine behaviours is unwanted urination. If your dog suddenly voids its bladder onto your nice new rug, the result is likely to be apoplexy. If it does it over and over again, this is even more so.
There are many different reasons why a dog might urinate. Some of these are medical, and so if the behaviour persists you should contact your vet and explain the situation. Others, however, are behavioural, and must be addressed through conditioning.
Dogs usually begin urinating as a result of anxiety caused by a change in their habitat. If you’ve just brought in a new pet, or a new baby, or even simply moved furniture around, the upheaval can result in a soiled carpet.
It’s important to remember that your dog isn’t doing it out of malice. Moreover, you should never retrospectively punish your dog for their behaviour – shouting at a dog after the fact is not going to elicit remorse; that expression you might mistake for guilt is actually just terror.
Instead of making a big deal out of it, try to make changes in your routine so that your dog feels more grounded and secure. This way, they won’t have to deal with anxiety, and the problem behaviour should subside. If it doesn’t, then you’ll likely have to explore alternative treatments.
Another obvious problem is barking. Dogs bark for a number of reasons. They might be seeking to intimidate, but more likely is that they’re trying to inform their ‘pack’ (ie. other members of the household) of something – like a visitor or a threat.
In order to combat unwanted barking, you have to acknowledge that the barking has achieved its objective – and that you’re aware of whatever your dog was trying to draw your attention to. Do this by gently offering praise. Then, if the barking persists, you can move up a gear, to your command voice. Tell the dog to stop barking. You might do this by spraying the dog with a spray bottle – this negative conditioning technique can be very effective.
If your dog only barks at certain times of the day – such as when you get back from work – then the behaviour might be a result of separation anxiety. Try to spend time giving your dog fuss and attention when you’re around – this will help to reduce stress when you’re not.
If you’re enjoying a nice hot meal, then the last thing you’ll want is your dog jumping up and trying to get their own slice of the action. Again, this particular troublesome behaviour can be counteracted by exerting your authority. Instruct your dog to get down while you’re sitting. If they get up, then instruct them again.
It’s important that you feed your dog only after you’ve finished your meal. This replicates the dynamic of a pack of wild hunting dogs. The alpha (that’s you) eats first. Those lower down the social hierarchy (that’s your dog) eat last. If you don’t put your dog it its place, then they will attempt to put you into yours – so get on top of this problem before it’s too late!
Suffice to say, rewarding begging behaviour by presenting your dog with treats and scraps from your table will only exacerbate the problem. So don’t give in, no matter how cute your dog’s entreaties may be.
Another, somewhat related problem concerns aggressiveness when food is withdrawn. To combat this, you should withdraw food occasionally at random. Command your dog to sit, or get down, and then return the food. This will help your dog to understand that you’re in charge, and that they’re not, which in turn should help to eliminate begging behaviour.
Jumping up is another common behaviour in dogs. It’s somewhat related to begging – but instead of craving food, your dog is craving attention. In the wild, young canines will seek food by jumping up at their superiors, and this behaviour can sometimes persist long into adulthood.
You can combat jumping behaviour through consistent discipline. Instruct your dog to sit, and then reward them when they comply with attention and praise. If they don’t comply, then don’t give them any reward.
Dogs are creatures which explore the world around them using their mouths. This is perfectly normal dog behaviour. However, some dogs take it a little bit too far – they’ll tear everything in sight to shreds – and they won’t discriminate between the things you like and the things you don’t. This is a problem which has spelled the untimely demise of many a leather three-piece suite.
One potential solution involves giving your dog something else to tear into and destroy. Chew toys are available in all good pet shops. They’re designed to withstand even the most violent mastication for months on end – and should therefore provide your dog with all the distraction it needs.
It’s important to bear in mind that you should never give your dog a toy that hasn’t been designed for dogs – those small plastic parts you find on children’s toys can easily shear off into jagged fragments and become lodged in your dog’s throat.