Common Canine Behavioral Problems… and Solutions!

canine-behavior-problemsWhen you bring a new dog or puppy into your home, there is a bit of a honeymoon period. Just like any other relationship, the two of you are learning as much as you can about each others’ personalities, habits and lifestyle. While most new pets are eager to please and learn the rules of the new house, there are a few that “buck the system” and try to see what they can get away with.

Experts recommend that new dog owners give their pet approximately two weeks to get comfortable in the home before canine behavioral problems and issues begin to reveal themselves. If everything is fine for the first 10-14 days and then all of a sudden “Spot” begins to make spots on the carpet, chew on the furniture or bark at the neighbor’s cat, don’t take it as a bad sign. In fact, this just means that he’s finally gotten comfortable in your home and is showing his true colors.

Identifying the Issues

Once your new dog gets comfortable in your home, it’s time to identify the issues and see what can be done to correct them. The following list of problems and possible solutions are an “in general” recommendation and will not be successful with every dog or situation. Sometimes other issues that are not often apparent to the new dog owner will be the real cause of the problem and a professional may need to be called in to evaluate the situation.

Get a complete check-up at your local animal hospital to make sure your new dog doesn’t have any health conditions or other physical problems that might be causing the issues at home. Depending on the dog’s previous situation before you adopted him, he may be suffering from anxiety, depression or some other type of emotional stress. Again, there could also be an illness or disease that is causing those accidents to happen on your new rug that aren’t obvious without a full veterinary exam.

Once your pet has received a bill of good health, you can consider consulting a dog trainer to help combat behavioral issues. This will require training and re-training on your part as well, as many of the so-called problems seen in dog behavior are actually as a result of poor leadership by the human. Be prepared to learn a lot and try to have an open mind, especially if you have had other dogs before in your life.

PROBLEM: House Training

SOLUTION: After clearing the dog of all medical issues at your local animal hospital, which could be causing accidents indoors, try confining the dog when you can’t supervise him to a crate or on a tiled area of your home. Try with simple steps, such as:

  • rewarding the dog with treats or praise when he goes where he should
  • feed on a set schedule, refrain from free-feeding
  • remove your dog’s water a few hours before bedtime so he won’t have accidents overnight
  • take him outside on a schedule – don’t count on him to let you know he has to go
  • pay attention to behaviors, such as circling, whining or sniffing
    if the dog starts to go indoors, stop him by clapping your hands or saying “no!” and then let him outdoors
  • when he has an accident, don’t punish him – it will only create more anxiety
  • clean any areas where accidents have occurred with an enzyme-based cleaner to completely remove urine and feces odors

PROBLEM: Marking Territory Indoors

SOLUTION: A lot of people think that housebreaking issues and the urge to mark territory indoors are the same problem. However, these are two completely distinct issues that need to be handled in different ways. Some solutions that can help combat indoor marking include:

  • contact your local animal hospital about neutering the dog
  • always crate the dog when he cannot be supervised
  • interrupt the action when the dog starts to lift his leg indoors
  • consider using a “belly band” training tool to catch any accidents
    always spray marked areas with an enzyme-based cleaner to remove marking odors
  • consider consulting a professional trainer if the problem continues

PROBLEM: Chewing

SOLUTION: Chewing can be one of the most dangerous canine behavioral problems due to common side-effects that come from swallowing items that could potentially impact the dog’s digestive system. If your dog has chewing problems, here are some tips that can help:

  • watch the dog carefully whenever he is out and about your home
  • keep him confined to a crate whenever you cannot supervise him
    purchase a “no chew” bitter-tasting spray to use on items you don’t want him chewing on
  • go through your home and make sure you have dangerous items picked up, such as dirty socks on the floor, toxic cleaners or anything else he might chew on
  • during your veterinary exam, speak with your vet about tips for preventing chewing and what to do if your dog swallows a sock or other item in your home

PROBLEM: Barking

SOLUTION: There are a lot of different reasons why dogs bark. Some bark because they are stressed out, while others bark as part of their “duty” to protect the home. Figuring out why your dog is barking is half the battle. Once you figure it out, you can try these remedies:

  • attention – ignore the dog and reward him for not barking
    boredom – play games, provide challenging exercise and use treat-giving toys that give a reward for proper play
  • guarding – confine the dog away from windows to prevent over-stimulation by normal neighborhood activity if you are unable to supervise him and correct the behavior
  • lonely – some dogs are just lonely when left outdoors or kept in another room; new dog owners should try spending more time with their dog when you are home
  • separation anxiety – speak with your local animal hospital about medications that can help calm dogs suffering from anxiety that will help them during separation training exercises
  • stress – dogs that are stressed won’t stop barking when ignored; try to re-focus the dog’s attention with obedience training or move him away from whatever is causing the stress and anxiety

PROBLEM: Jumping on People

SOLUTION: This can be one of the most difficult canine behavioral problems to solve. It requires that everyone in the home – including visitors – be on the same page and react to the behavior the same way. Here are some tips that can help:

  • ignore the behavior and do not give the dog ANY attention, including negative or corrective attention, as a reward for the behavior
  • try training exercises with commands such as “four on the floor” to get the dog to stand or sit with all four feet on the ground so he can’t jump
  • reward good behavior with praise and treats
  • stay consistent for best results, never wavering from his training

Taking Care of Your New Dog

While there are lots of other canine behavioral problems and issues that a new dog owner might have to face, these are the most common. Other serious issues, such as running away, not coming when called or aggression toward people or other dogs, may require professional help, either from your local animal hospital or a certified dog trainer.

If you have a new dog or puppy, schedule him for a veterinary exam at Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth, for a complete evaluation of his health. During your first exam, the veterinarian will tell you about any vaccinations or medications you dog might need that will help keep him happy and healthy. Call today to schedule an appointment at 508-996-3731.