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Behavior Problems

BARKING

All dogs bark, usually out of excitement to see people or other animals, danger warnings or just out of complete boredom. Your dog can be barking because he or she is having fun, is lonely or is frightened. Anxious dogs will bark in a tone that sounds like distress and calls us to attention. However, sometimes dogs bark from habit and become a nuisance. If you can discern the reason for the barking, it will be easier to deal with and correct, if necessary.

First you need to learn to understand your dog’s reason for barking. Here are a few suggestions:

If your dog has no other stimulus and is simply barking at you, he or she may simply want attention from you. The dog might be hungry or thirsty, or just want to play. Give the dog some attention, such as play time or a nice walk. Offer food and water, if needed, or just pet the dog for a period of time. If your dog has been left for a long period time, he or she is probably just expressing their desire for company.

Leaving your dog for long periods of time can create excess barking that becomes an annoyance to the neighbors. Some dogs will quiet down if there is a radio or TV background noise playing. They tend to associate this type of noise with their owner being around. If your dog is outside for long periods of time, make sure there are a lot of favorite dog toys to play with. IQube Cagey Cube is a great toy that will keep your dog occupied for hours at a time.

  • You can prevent dogs from barking every time a stranger walks by if you keep shades drawn and keep the dog from seeing what is outside. If you pet him or reassure him at these times, he may think he’s being praised for barking.
  • Many dogs will bark when they hear a lawn mower, vacuum cleaner or other loud sounds. Desensitize your dog by exposing him or her to these sounds at different times.
  • If your dog insists on barking at various times without good reason, try making a noise louder than the barking, such as clanging two cooking pots together. If you make a sound louder than the barking, it will grab the dog’s attention and he may think twice about barking over and over. These repetitive behaviors will eventually train your dog to keep the barking under control.

DESTRUCTIVE CHEWING

From the time you have a puppy, the best method of preventing destructive chewing is to make sure you have acceptable items on hand for your dog to chew on. When puppies are teething, they need rubber bones, squeaky toys, ropes or balls can give comfort to their growing teeth. Offer your puppy these items to distract him or her from trying to chew on shoes, furniture or other items that are off limit.

Often when puppies are given personal items, such as shoes to chew on, they will then be attracted to those types of items and think of them as play toys. Dogs continue chewing on items to relieve tension or sometimes just out of boredom. Make sure you have plenty of acceptable chew toys available and praise your dog when he or she is chewing on those items. Remember, you have to teach your dog what is acceptable and what is not.

If your dog begins chewing on personal items, furniture, carpets or other unacceptable items, tell him “No!” and offer an acceptable toy to chew on. Make sure your personal items are not lying around within reach of the dog to prevent temptation.

If your dog continues to chew on unacceptable items, you may want to try spraying products such as hot pepper sauce or pet repellents onto the items. Dogs don’t like the smell of perfumes or after-shave lotions either. One of these can be sprayed onto items the dog wants to chew on. Another idea is to use a soda can with pebbles or pennies inside that you can shake when the dogs begins chewing on objects that are off limits. The rattling noise will scare the dog.

Edible products, such as rawhide chew bones can give your dog something to chew on for a long period of time. Be careful about giving puppies these products as sometimes they can upset their stomach. Also, some dogs get defensive with food products, so be aware of this issue as well.

Just like in other areas of training, breaking a chewing habit may take some time. The best defense is to have acceptable chewing items available and watch the dog when you allow him or her to be in the house. Repetitive training, distractions and acceptable chewing toys are the best method of stopping a destructive chewing problem.

MOUTHING AND NIPPING

Mouthing and nipping is often a problem with puppies as they are learning what is acceptable behavior. This is a behavior that can be stopped to prevent biting people or other animals. Here are a few tips for early training:

  • Put a leash on a puppy when in your house to keep him or her from trying to nip at anyone or items you don’t want to have chewing marks on.
  • Take the puppy or dog out for regular exercise and offer appropriate toys to gnaw on.
  • A good item to relieve teething pains is a wet rag that has been wrung out and frozen. Replace it as it begins to thaw.
  • If your puppy or dog playfully nips or bites at you, say “ouch!” or “no!” loudly and offer a proper chew toy.
  • Use a product such as Indoor Bitter End, a bitter tasting spray training aid to discourage pets from chewing or biting. Try a little on the dog’s lip if he or she keeps trying to mouth or nip.
  • Rough playing can encourage nipping and biting. Playing with the dog is good, but when aggression begins to happen, it needs to be curbed so that your dog doesn’t inadvertently begin to nip and bite out of playfulness. Back off on the playing and offer chew toys if this begins to happen. Stop bad behavior immediately. Use other commands, such as “sit” or “down” to redirect the dog’s behavior and calm him down.

JUMPING UP

Puppies and dogs will sometimes jump up on their owners or other people because they are more sociable or bold. Sometimes they do this behavior because they have associated jumping up with being rewarded by petting and praising attention. Dogs love you as their owner and often want to show their love by jumping on you. Sometimes they are just over friendly! We think it’s cute to have a puppy jumping at us, but if this behavior is allowed over a period of time it can become an annoyance. Dogs don’t understand the difference between allowing them to jump up at certain times and not other times, so teaching them not to jump is the best idea.

Jumping up gives the dog attention, so it is important how you respond. Pushing the dog away could be interpreted as a sign of play. A better idea is to teach the dog when to jump, if that is your desire, and when to stay down.

Begin teaching your dog not to jump by crouching down to his or her level to pet them. That keeps the behavior under your control. Use specific words, such as “down!” when the dog is jumping at the wrong times. Reward your dog with hugs and praise only when four feet are all on the ground so that confusion of rewards and jumping doesn’t happen.

If your dog is prone to jumping when a friend comes by, you may want to put a leash on to keep him or her from leaping up. Say “no!” or “down!” if attempts are made and use the leash to hold the dog in place. When the dog obeys, offer praise and petting to reinforce good behavior.

Dogs will not only jump on people, but on furniture if they are not taught to stay down. This is another behavior that is encouraged sometimes by visitors who think the dog is cute and cuddly. The dog reacts by jumping up on the furniture or on a person’s lap. Your command in this case needs to be “down!” or “off!” along with a gentle nudge to get the dog down on the floor. If dogs are allowed on the furniture at other times, they will not understand when suddenly they are shoved off a visitor’s lap or the furniture at other times. It is better to train the dog to stay off the furniture at all times, to avoid this confusion.

If unwanted jumping behavior continues, such as when you come home from work, you will need to try different strategies, such as ignoring the dog for a period of time when you first arrive at home. After the dog is calmer, then you should bend down and give some attention at that time.

The more you reinforce good behavior and correct bad behavior, the more your dog will respond to the good reinforcement. Be patience and practice the training often. For persistent jumpers, consider hiring a trainer to teach the dog the right behavior.

POSSESSIVENESS

Your dog may get very possessive when he gets a new toy or bone. He will react by guarding it closely by holding it tight in his front paws, licking and chewing on it or even retreating to a corner to protect it.

Dogs need to be taught early in their life to share so that aggressive behavior doesn’t show up later in life. Aggressive behavior cannot be tolerated, especially if you have other pets or small children in the house. You will need to put a leash and collar on your dog to train him not to be possessive. When you give him the new toy, you have to teach him to drop it on your command. Say “drop it,” and praise him highly when he responds even a little. If he decides to hold onto the toy, give him other commands, such as “sit” or “down” to remind him that you are the leader. Repeat your commands several times and take away his toy when you are finished. Repeat this exercise at a later time.

You can also offer your dog a treat or a different toy for the one he wants to hold onto. As soon as you say “drop it” and he obeys, give him a treat or a different toy. Repeat this exercise several times. You can create trust by handing back the same toy, along with other toys as you play this game with your dog. It shouldn’t take too long before he begins to trust that you will give him the new toy or an older toy back. He should begin to obey your commands if you are consistent.

Bones are harder to take away than toys. Many dogs will not give up a bone for anything else and it may be in your best interest to just let him have it. Be careful about giving out this type of item when you cannot seem to break the possessive behaviors. Remember that a distraction can be one of the best ways to break a dog that wants to guard his toys or other objects.

DIGGING

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons. This activity is not one that can be changed by obedience training because it is one that has to be worked with as it happens. There are several reasons why dogs dig. Sometimes dogs dig because they want a cool place to lie down. Other reasons include boredom, smells they are exploring and perhaps even the activity of guarding their territory.

Keeping your dog monitored is your best defense against digging. Also, the dog needs to know that digging isn’t acceptable. A stern “No!” will help him understand when he is caught in the act. This command will need to be repeated until he gets the idea. There are several ways to prevent digging, however:

  • When you are not able to monitor your dog, put him in an undiggable place, such as out on concrete, a patio or a room with a closed door.
  • Give your dog some favorite toys while you are away so he has something to keep him occupied.
  • Make sure his environment is comfortable, sheltered from the heat, cold, wind or rain. Leave plenty of water for him as well.
  • Give your dog a lot of exercise so he is less inclined to be actively digging.
  • Dogs do not like to dig where there have been feces, so throw some into the area he has been digging and cover it.
  • Place heavy objects, such as bricks to deter the dog from digging in the same spot. Place chicken wire around shrubs or plants you want to protect.
  • Startle your dog with loud noises, such as a can with pebbles inside or even water spray. The water or noises may startle the dog and he will associate his digging with that noise or water spray.

If these measures don’t work well enough, you may want to consider giving your dog his own space to dig up that isn’t disruptive to your yard.

URINE MARKING

Dogs have a way to declare ownership in a territory and one way is to mark the area with urine. By nature, a male dog especially will sniff out where other dogs have been and place their claim to that territory. This is mostly a male trait, although some females will mark. It’s like leaving a calling card.

This is not a behavior to be too concerned about unless it begins to happen indoors. The dog is trying to establish dominance and this pattern has to be broken. Don’t ignore the behavior because it will happen again. Consider using disposable diapers on the dog if it is a constant problem. Another option is training pads for puppies and for adult dogs.

Neutering your male dog will most likely decrease his urge to mark territory by urinating. Since he will become naturally less aggressive, his attention will turn from hormonal activities to his family for love and attention. He will be less interested in showing his masculinity to other males.

If there is no medical reason for uncontrolled urinating in the house, make sure you take the following steps:

  • Take the dog on regular walks, especially in the morning or after eating so he or she can relieve themselves at regular times.
  • Give your dog lots of playtime and exercise to alleviate some of the aggressiveness of the marking behavior.
  • If you catch the dog in the act, make a loud noise, or say “No!” sharply to let him know that is unacceptable behavior. Take the dog outside immediately to let him finish his business.
  • Do not yell at him, strike or show anger. Simply say your command and place him where he can urinate.
  • Watch the dog when you take him outside and see if he does his business. If he is distracted and does not go, be aware of his activities in the house and be prepared to make a loud noise to keep him from following through. Take him outside again at that time.
  • Watch for signs such as whining, circling, pawing or other repetitive behaviors that may signal your dogs’ need to go potty.
  • Repeat these behaviors as you need to and eventually your dog will understand that marking territory in the house is not acceptable.

EATING FECES

Although no one really wants to talk about, there are dogs out there that like to not only roll in feces, but sometimes eat it as well. It can be a habit that is difficult to break. The awful thing is he can eat it up, then run to you and give you a kiss! This is a very nasty habit that needs a bit of understanding.

A couple reasons your dog may like this dung delicacy is that there is a nutritional deficiency that isn’t met by your dog’s normal daily food intake. You vet can help determine if this is a cause. Some dogs simply watch other dogs do this and copy that behavior. Certain other dogs, such as Retrievers are just programmed to “retrieve” or pick things up in their mouths.

Try to teach your dog with a stern command to “leave it” if you are with him when he picks up feces. Pull back on his collar and pull him away from the source of intrigue. In your own yard, make sure everything is cleaned up after your dog’s toilet time. If it’s not there, it won’t be a temptation.

If there is persistent behavior from your dog, try a pet repellent, such as . Meat tenderizer will create a nasty taste your dog won’t like and can deter him from eating feces.

Take time to monitor your dog if he has this habit. The less the feces are available to him, the less he will have the opportunity to make a meal of it.

GUARDING FOOD

Just like some dogs guard their toys, many dogs guard their food or even empty food bowls. Food can bring out the possessiveness in a dog more than anything else. Your dog may h have memories of leaner times and wants to make sure no other dog or human is going to take his share. Some dogs can even get aggressive while guarding their food or they will inhale it to make sure it isn’t going to go to anyone else!

Dogs that guard their empty food bowls may simply be hungry and wait for food to show in the bowl. They are protecting the territory around the bowl as well. This has to do with what is called a “denning” instinct. A den could have been an abandoned shed or a cave used by dogs in the wild. They protected their space at all costs.

Dogs that live with other dogs may see them competition to their meals so guarding the food bowl becomes a survival tool. Just watch for competitive behavior that could turn aggressive. This should not be tolerated.

If you know your dog is getting enough food but simply seems to enjoy the process of guarding his empty or partially full bowl, you need to take steps to deal with this issue. If he doesn’t have any competition around him, there may not be much of a problem. However, if growling is occurring, then steps need to be taken to modify this behavior.

  • Try placing the dog bowl in the middle of a large room. Part of the guarding instinct is trying to protect the space around the bowl. There is more security for the dog in a small, confined space. The middle of the room with big, open spaces is very difficult to protect. This action alone could deter him from this guarding principle.
  • Play musical bowls: Move his bowl to different areas of the room. He won’t the same space to guard it if it is moved around frequently. There will be more attachment placed on the food in the bowl rather than the bowl itself.
  • Take the bowl away. Let your dog eat his food, and then pick up the bowl. Out of sight, out of mind. He will be more interested in eating the food when it is placed in front of him rather than dealing with protecting a bowl.
  • Change his perspective. Tell your dog to sit, rollover, lie down or come and then feed him, the association will begin to be one of “payment” before eating. The dog will begin to understand that when he obeys, he will be rewarded with a meal at feeding time.
  • Try dropping a small treat in your dog’s bowl when he is eating. He will begin to see you as someone who is caring for him rather than competing. Your dog will begin to get excited to see you coming towards his bowl if he knows a treat is coming as well. This is a good “quick fix” to the problem as you find other ways to work with your food guarding dog.

Related Articles..
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House Training
Teaching your dog how to sit, come and make eye contact
Fixing Behavior Problems
Preventing Dog Attacks Caused by Canine Aggression
Understanding Dog Behavior
7 Signs of Dog Separation Anxiety
How Breed Influences Canine Behavior
Developmental Stages of Dog and Puppy Behavior
6 Tips for Fixing a Dog Behavior Problem
Can Bad Dog Behavior Be Treated with Medication?
What Is a Dog Whisperer?
Six Reasons to Get Professional Dog Training

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