5 Most Common Canine Behavioral Issues

Dr. Purushothaman
October 6, 2013

Most of the behavioral "problems" owners observe in their dogs are consistent with the animal's instincts. For example, canines love to explore new territory, and thus roam if given the chance; they dig when they're bored or want to escape their surroundings; and they bark and howl because both are useful ways to communicate. Having said this, these and other behaviors can become frustrating to owners.

Below, we'll provide a brief guide to the most common bad habits dogs display. You'll learn the reasons behind the behaviors as well as how to curb them. The following list is incomplete but offers a glimpse into the behaviors you're most likely to notice.

1 - Indoor Elimination

If your pet eliminates in your home, realize the behavior may be caused by one of many factors. For example, he may be urinating to show submission to you, another person in your household, or another animal. He might also be eliminating indoors to mark his territory, informing other animals that they are on his property. Other reasons include separation anxiety, a bid for your attention, and medical issues.

It is estimated that nearly 20 percent of canines deal with this issue in one form or another. Assuming your pet has received housetraining, have a veterinarian examine him if you're unable to determine the behavior's trigger.

2 - Begging At The Table

Given the opportunity, a dog will (almost) always eat food that is presented to him. Unless he has been trained not to, he begs for it, usually at the dinner table. The problem is, many owners and their families give in to begging, thereby reinforcing the habit. As a result, the animal learns that begging will be rewarded with the prize he seeks: food.

Never give your canine food when he begs. If, while you and your family enjoy a meal, he looks longingly at you, place him in another room until the meal is finished.

3 - Excessive Barking

As with inappropriate elimination, there are many possible reasons a canine will bark. For example, he might do so to let his family know a potential threat is nearby. He may bark to warn away perceived intruders. A dog will also bark when he is bored, anxious, or craving his owner's attention.

Curbing excessive barking requires that you first understand the trigger that prompted the behavior. A different approach is needed to resolve barking stemming from boredom (provide more exercise) than that caused by anxiety (apply desensitization training).

4 - Jumping On People

A lot of canines jump up on people to greet them, get their attention, or as a display of dominance. Usually annoying, this behavior can be dangerous if the animal is large and the person on whom he jumps is small (e.g. a child). Unfortunately, as with begging, the habit is often reinforced by the owner.

A dog that jumps for attention receives it when his owner scolds him, pushes him off, or blocks him. The best solution is to ignore the animal. When he jumps on you, turn around and look in a different direction. Then, give him your attention once he becomes calm.

5 - Chewing Furniture And Other Items

Dogs learn about their surroundings with their mouths. This is one of the reasons you'll observe puppies chewing nearly everything within their reach, including shoes, clothes, and their owners' hands. Adult canines may also chew, especially if their owners have not previously taken steps to curb the habit. They may do so out of anxiety or boredom.

Most trainers recommend providing dogs with at least one chew toy and giving them plenty of daily exercises. This helps them burn energy, which in turn reduces the likelihood they'll become bored.

Canines exhibit a lot of other frustrating habits, such as biting, aggressive behavior, running away, and digging. But the five listed above represent the most common.

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