Dog Behaving Badly: Causes and Solutions

Dog laying down

Do you suspect your dog of acting out? Is your dog behaving badly, or are his actions causing you frustration? Understanding the causes of your dog’s behaviour can help you begin to explore ways to correct it.

Pulling on the Leash

Generally speaking, dogs pull on the leash because it helps them get where they really, really want to go. However, this can be frustrating when trying to have a relaxing and bonding walk. 

To correct this behaviour, take the following steps: 

  • Ask your dog to heel when on the leash
  • Move forward when there is no tension on the leash
  • If your dog continues to pull, stop right away and do not move
  • When your dog turns to look back, call him back to the heel position and start again
  •  If he pulls on the leash, stop and repeat the process

Going to the Bathroom Where He Shouldn’t 

If your dog suddenly views the whole world, including your sofa, as his toilet, you should first consult your veterinarian. It’s always best to rule out that a health issue is not at play. 

Even well-trained dogs have an accident or two. To prevent this from recurring, clean the area your dog urinated on with an odour neutralizer. Here are some additional tips to prevent future accidents:

  • Avoid making sudden changes in your dog's diet
  • Avoid giving your dog late night snacks
  • Make sure he spends enough time outdoors

Excessive Barking 

There are many reasons why your dog may be barking – separation anxiety, loneliness, protecting their territory or even just trying to get you to play. If you suspect that your dog’s barking is due to a larger problem, address the issue and work on their behaviour. Here are some tips:

  • If barking occurs while you’re away, work on crate training your dog 
  • When barking occurs, say a firm “no” and reward your dog with praise when he stops barking
  • Only correct your dog while he is barking – any corrective action taken after the fact can confuse your dog 

Chewing

If your dog chews on something off-limits, like a shoe or a piece of furniture, say “no” or “eh” in a low voice, and then immediately replace the item with a chew toy. Make sure to praise your dog when he is chewing on the appropriate toy. Also, it's important to make sure to always have chew toys available for your dog, as chewing is an instinctual need, and it will help stop your dog from chewing on household items.

Digging 

Digging is typically more common in the summer months, as dogs dig holes to cool off. If you notice this behaviour in your dog, consider providing him with a cool location during the day or a source of shade when he is outside. 

If your dog simply loves to dig, and you can’t discourage the behaviour, you can create a “digging area” in your yard. Praise your dog when he digs in the designated area with attention or a treat. If he digs anywhere outside of the area, make sure to firmly say “no” to deter your dog. 

Resource Guarding 

First, evaluate how generalized the situation is. Is your dog always trying to protect resources, is he just protecting a specific toy, or is he acting this way only during mealtimes? If fights break out only around mealtime or when a certain toy comes out, a simple management solution may be the answer.

"A suitable management option may be to feed the dogs in separate areas or rooms of your home," explains Lindsay Wood, a behaviourist at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. "If tension occurs only when chewing special chew-bones or playing with a specific toy, the dogs should enjoy their individual toys or bones in separate areas and be reintroduced to one another only after all remnants of the bones have been finished and the toys removed." 

If the problem is more generalized, or if the intensity of the guarding behaviour is high, you may have to consult with a dog behaviour expert.

Use this as a general guide to understanding and correcting your dog’s bad behaviour. We hope the advice and tips above are a helpful starting point for addressing your dog’s more puzzling actions.

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