They may have spent years becoming domesticated, but dogs still maintain some of their wild instinct and this natural behavior can cause problems for owners. Fortunately, with a little bit of training and love these natural dog behavior problems don’t have to be considered problems. If your dog is misbehaving, this article will help explore the most common behavioral issues, talk about where they come from, and finally look at how you can start to train your dog to stop problematic behaviors like excessive barking, chewing, and food guarding. If you have a dog with a bad habit, read on!
In the wild, the dog that survives is the one that is able to protect his food from being snatched away by a fellow pack member. Although this might make sense for a dog roaming the woods with his pack, it can cause a lot of problems in a home. On the lightest side, you may find your dog hiding his favorite toys between couch cushions, and on the more serious side, you may experience growling and aggression when you feed your pet. Most families can simply cope with mild resource guarding but simply observing their dog’s behavior, giving it adequate food, and leaving it alone while eating. However, in homes with children, this behavior can lead to bites or other injuries to a child who wasn’t able to read the dog’s otherwise obvious signals. Also, take into account your pet’s age, young puppies who go from fighting to get a nipple to competing to get the most food from a communal bowl have a tendency toward being competitive with food, so when you bring home a new puppy, slowly reassure them there will be enough food. If the problem persists in an older dog, try the following.
The process for training a dog who has resource guarding issues is called counter conditioning combined with desensitization. To start desensitization, stand a few feet from your dog while it eats dry kibble and speak gently to it asking “what do you got there” and expressing small amounts of interest in its food. If the dog doesn’t growl or react, toss a treat. Continue to do this desensitization exercise until you’ve reached ten times without the dog growling or acting aggressive, then move on to stepping one step toward the bowl each time you say your key phrase. Again, when the dog has gone ten times without growling, progress to moving closer to the bowl, finally touching the bowl, and then eventually moving the bowl away and returning it. This desensitization should slowly work your dog up to the concept of you touching its food and should lower his reaction.
Finally, know that even with this effective treatment, your dog may still have to have some special accommodation. Try not to let strangers around your dog while he’s eating, and if need be put the dog in another room when guests are around.
Barking and yowling
Excessive barking can be an annoyance for you and for neighbors and can be an indicator of anxiety or irritation for a dog, but there are easy ways to stop dog barking. When dealing with a noisy pup, first try to understand the barking and if there’s anything you can do to remove the stimulus. For some dogs outside noise or seeing people can be a trigger. If this is the case, you can start by simply leaving a radio playing soft music when you leave to help muffle outside noise. Secondly, use curtains or blinds to cover windows where a dog might see strangers passing by, or put him in a room where he’s less likely to see passersby.
If these preventative measures don’t stop dog barking, then it’s time to move on to training efforts. Many people immediately jump to using a bark collar, and these are a sometimes controversial solution to the problem. There are several types of bark colors, one type uses electric shock and another uses a small squirt of citronella. If you plan to use a bark collar, start by using it when you’re around, and only use it on one dog at a time. One of the major failings of these bark collars is that they can’t distinguish between which dog is barking or other loud noises, so you don’t want your dog to receive negative feedback when he isn’t doing anything wrong. These collars have also been known to occasionally malfunction, so make sure your collar is working well before you leave your pet alone for any extended time with the collar on.
An alternate solution to a bark collar is a pet camera. Many pet camera, such as the Petcube Play pet camera, have sound notifications that can send you an alert when your pet is barking. With this knowledge, you can immediately log into your camera and correct your pet via two-way audio. Petcube also has a laser that allows you to distract your dog if they are laser responsive.
Chewing and destructiveness
There’s nothing worse than coming home to find your favorite pair of shoes chewed up or your carpet dug up. Although these behaviors may be normal for a wild dog, they just won’t fly for a domesticated pup, but there are ways to train around these behaviors.
For chewing, first rule out any medical issue. Chewing can sometimes be a behavioral coping mechanism for other issues going on so just rule out with a vet that nothing is wrong. If your dog is a puppy, be prepared to deal with teething and buy appropriate toys to stop puppy chewing.
Appropriate toys are key to directing your pet’s chewing appropriately, as well as making sure any inappropriate items, like shoes, aren’t available. Observe your dog and notice what types of toys it prefers, and try to select toys that have an interesting texture that will appeal to your pup. Toys with a slightly soft outside and hard core create interesting shapes and depressions as the pet chews that can help keep them entertained. If inappropriate chewing still continues, invest in a foul tasting spray formulated especially for dogs that you can spray on forbidden items to condition the dog that these items don’t taste good.
For destructive behavior, it’s important to assess what’s driving the destructiveness. Many destructive behaviors can be reformed with simple lifestyle changes. Your dog may be responding with anxious destruction because he’s uncomfortable with barriers that have been put up, or he may be digging into carpet because he’s scared of a loud noise. Remove the stimulus if at all possible, and go from there. If the destructive behavior continues, there’s no easy route besides training and more exercise for your pet. An animal that’s bored, full of energy, and left to its own devices can be a destructive combination, and fixing the situation starts with more playtime and walks.
Dog behavior problems are some of the top reasons that pets end up being returned to shelters, but a few little problems don’t have to come between you and your dog. Practice understanding and compassion, and realize that your dog isn’t misbehaving out of spite or anger, it’s simply instinct.