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How to Handle 6 Common Dog Behavior Problems

What to Do With Your Misbehaving Pooch

By Sam Bourne. November 13, 2013 | See Comments

Puppy Chewing on Yarn

If you're a pet parent dealing with dog behavior problems, take heart -- with the proper training methods, most troubling behaviors can be broken. From biting to digging, we're covering common dog behavior problems and how to solve them.

Dogs, by their very nature, exhibit many behaviors which we might consider disruptive, or downright problematic, in terms of coexisting with us. While some dog behaviors are simply facets of "pack" life, the good news is that  problem behaviors can usually be weeded out with careful training. A few behaviors to work on are:

1. Aggression

If you can read your dog's body language, it is generally pretty easy to tell when your dog is being aggressive -- ears pulled back, snarling, snapping, showing their teeth. Dogs exhibiting territorial behaviors are likely to use aggressive behavior, and should be discouraged from a young age. Should they learn that these behaviors are acceptable, like guarding their food, they'll feel it within their rights to continue. It is up to you to be the master of your domain -- if you let them think that they are the alpha, you can’t be surprised when they start acting bossy.

Sometimes, however, aggressive behavior can simply be the result of a miscommunication. For example, if you reprimand your dog and they slink off, don’t chase after them, as their walking off and hiding is their way of submitting, showing that the lesson was learned. If you follow after them to drive the point home and they snap at you, bear in mind that, in their eyes, you are displaying the aggressive behavior first by following them after they submitted, and they are responding to your "aggression" the only way they know how.

Another type of aggression is that related to pain, such as in dogs suffering from arthritis. Given that they are less able to get up and walk away from unwanted attention, it becomes easier to simply snap at the kid tugging on their hair.

2. Jumping Up

Regardless of the size of your dog, jumping up is their way of letting you know who is boss. By allowing this behavior you are opening the floodgates for loads of other dominance related issues, because if your dog thinks that they are your alpha, they won’t feel any obligation to listen to your commands. To break this behavior, just keep calm and don’t acknowledge them until they are seated. Yelling or shoving them off is only engaging their behavior. While it may be difficult, try to ignore them until they follow your command. Once they do, reward the behavior.

3. Leash Pulling

When it comes to applied pressure, dogs are bred to resist. That is why humans have used them for pulling sleds and doing draft work. It is also this instinct that makes them pull on the leash. It can be irritating and troubling, making your daily walks extra difficult. A good way to prevent this is to use a training collar and some well timed commands. If you notice your dog is starting to pull, snap the leash quickly, give them the “heel” command, and praise them when they respond. It may take a while, but eventually you will find your walks much more pleasant.

4. Chewing

Anyone who has come home to a chewed up couch knows the pains of this particular doggy behavior. As far as breaking them of it entirely, good luck. Dogs chew. However, this is a behavior that can be channeled into something less destructive. A solid arsenal of chew toys should be enough to get your dog to stop eating up all your stuff. After a little bit of reprimanding for chewing up furniture, and some praising for using their toys, they will start to get the picture.

5. Digging

Many dog breeds dig, which can be a nightmare for your lawn. If yours is a digging dog, one way to help manage their dirty habit is to first figure out why they are digging. It could be that they are simply bored, in which case, play with them a bit. Perhaps they are trying to pull a great escape and tunnel out of the yard. For this, you might have to get crafty, extending your fence down into the ground. If they dig only after being left outside for extended periods of time, it could be that they feel vulnerable out in the open for so long, in which case, a dog house to retreat to should nip that right in the bud. If they are digging just for the sake of digging, try setting aside a place where it is ok to dig, praising them for digging there and reprimanding them from digging elsewhere.

6. Guarding

Dogs in nature are pack creatures and packs have a hierarchy. Because of this, many dogs view themselves as the alpha because of the way they are treated, resulting in them becoming bold, guarding their territory and even fighting people. If you sense that your dog is getting a little to big for their britches, it might be time to set some boundaries.

If they are getting aggressive around mealtimes, you might need to remind them that you are the reason that food is there in the first place. Before you feed them, make sure they sit and are well behaved. A good way to stop bad behavior is by breaking each meal into 4 or 5 small portions, praising them for being calm each time you take their dish to refill it. Same thing goes for dogs who are protective of their toys. If the problem persists, it could be a matter of obedience, in which case you might wish to seek the guidance of an obedience trainer.

How to Be Your Dog's "Pack Leader"

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