12 Common Dog Behaviour Problems You Need to Know

A naughty dog that has chewed on the couch and broken some eating plates looking guilty
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Here are 12 common dog behaviour problems that many dog owners encounter.

The reality is that canine behavioural issues are frequently overlooked, resulting in dog owners often dealing with them incorrectly. As a result, it is critical that you properly grasp your dog’s problem; only then can you take the appropriate actions to address the behaviour. You can help your dog overcome these issues by being consistent, patient, and by having a willingness to teach them.

That being said, continue reading to learn about the 12 behavioural problems, their likely causes, and how you can assist your dog to overcome and avoid them.

1. Excessive Barking

A playful Border Collie Australian Cattle Dog mixed breed dog standing in a play bow position and barking
(Photo: Mary Swift/stock.adobe.com)

Dogs communicate in a variety of ways, one of which is barking. Barking is normal for dogs and is part of their nature. But, when your dog starts to do it excessively, it can quickly become a problem. This type of behaviour can occur for many reasons, and you must first determine what is causing the barking before attempting to correct it.

Usual sources of barking include, but are not limited to:

  • When your dog greets people
  • Attention-seeking
  • Frustration
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Excitement or play
  • Boredom
  • When socializing with other dogs

You can employ various methods to keep your dog from barking uncontrollably. Try teaching your dog a “quiet” command or using an action that signals that they need to quiet down. It is critical that you do not yell at your dog when they’re barking, as this will only make them more energetic. The main goal is to teach your dog to control their impulses when confronted with noises or objects that provoke them into barking.

2. Destructive Chewing

A naughty dog chewing on a a toy teddy bear
(Photo: Willee Cole/stock.adobe.com)

Chewing is a means for dogs to explore and examine their surroundings. It also helps younger dogs deal with teething, sore gums and assists them in maintaining healthy and clean teeth. In addition to this, when dogs are bored, they chew to relieve any anxieties or frustrations they may be experiencing.

Unfortunately, as natural as many of these reasons may be to your dog, they can cause your dog’s chewing to become destructive if not monitored.

One way to discourage such behaviour is to keep anything your dog might like to chew out of reach. Some items will be harder to move, but if you have any valuables that you can keep out of their reach, do so. Give your dog some chew toys to use; so as to stop them from causing damage to other more valuable items. When you are not personally overseeing your dog, crate them, as leaving them alone may lead to chewing out of boredom. Finally, make sure your dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation so that they can channel their energy into something other than chewing.

3. Separation Anxiety

Sad Beagle dog lying on carpet in cozy home
(Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/stock.adobe.com)

Separation anxiety is a recurrent behaviour in many dogs. However, unlike other behaviours, if not addressed early, separation anxiety can develop into other undesirable behaviours, like urinating, defecating, chewing, escaping, and pacing. All the more reason you must pay close attention to any behaviours that suggest separation anxiety in your dog.

An example of such behaviour is when your dog becomes anxious when you are preparing to leave or just when you are about to leave. When owners are not present at home, a dog’s anxiety is at its worst as the dog begins barking and exhibits stressful behaviours. Another marker of separation anxiety is your dog’s constant need for your attention and need to be near you at all times.

When treating a dog with separation anxiety, you must teach them that being alone is not a bad thing. However, the best course of action is to consult with your veterinarian or a behaviourist. They will assist you in determining how to address your dog’s specific needs.

4. Digging

A Golden Retriever dog showing dog behaviour problems by digging on the property
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Digging is natural for dogs; however, it can quickly become a problem when your dog causes property damage or harms itself. Any dog can develop the habit of digging, but some breeds and ages are more susceptible to it than others.

There are numerous reasons why your dog might dig. 

Among these are:

  • wishing to conceal their possessions
  • To seek comfort during the summer 
  • They have excess energy
  • Their hunting nature

To help your dog overcome their excessive digging, you must first determine why they’re digging and address the issue accordingly.

Providing your dog with a sandbox is one of the most efficient ways to do this. It will not completely stop your dog from digging, but it will give them a safer area where they won’t have to worry about causing damage. In addition to this, consider exercising your dog to expend any excess energy they may have on something other than digging. Finally, spending more time with your dog will keep them occupied and hopefully distracted from their need to dig.

5. Aggression

A small chihuahua dog being aggressive towards its owner
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Aggression is one of the most common and extreme behaviours displayed by dogs. Faced with the right circumstances, all dogs have the potential to be aggressive. Aggression in dogs can manifest itself in a variety of small individual behaviours that you may not be aware of. These behaviours can range from a soft growl all the way to your dog biting whatever it is they feel threatened by.

Some of the behaviours that an aggressive dog can exhibit are:

  • Growls
  • Snarls – growls and shows teeth
  • barks menacingly
  • Forward lunges or charges
  • Shows their teeth
  • Repeatedly bites
  • They punch with their nose.

Aggression in dogs can occur for many reasons. Dogs may become aggressive to defend their territory, possessions or even in response to fear.

If your dog exhibits violent behaviour, consider taking them to the vet, as it is not uncommon for dogs to show aggression from a medical condition. Your veterinarian will assist you in confirming or ruling out any such cause.

Consider contacting a professional behaviour specialist to assist you in developing a treatment plan to address your dog’s aggression concerns. A specialist will account for important details to ensure that the program is tailored to your dog. When necessary, they will also make appropriate adjustments.

6. Chasing

A dog chasing a bird plover at the beach
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The instincts of a dog point to its desire to chase moving objects. Dogs love chasing after other animals, people, and generally anything that moves. Regardless, chasing can be extremely dangerous for a dog and can result in unintended injury.

You will find that preventing your dog from chasing is quite challenging, so instead of focusing on getting rid of chasing, concentrate on how you can limit injury when your dog does go in pursuit of something.

It is essential to identify and remove any potential triggers that may cause your dog to chase, such as cars or joggers. However, this is sometimes unavoidable, so teach your dog to stay calm in such instances. One of the most effective ways to do this is to socialize your dog and sensitize them to distractions.

7. Jumping on people

Neapolitan mastiff dog jumping up on its owner
(Photo: urbazon/Getty Images)

Dogs jump for a number of reasons, the most common of which is to greet you or your house guests. Jumping, however, can frighten visitors and be physically damaging, especially if your dog is large.

Because your dog jumps out of excitement when greeting you, the best way to handle this is not to engage or acknowledge this excitement. Ignoring your dog teaches them that jumping on people is unacceptable, while encouragement worsens the situation.

One of the best ways to get rid of your dog’s jumping is to turn away immediately when they try to jump on you and only pay attention to them after both of their front paws are on the ground. After they’re standing still, greet them calmly to help them contain their excitement.

8. Biting

german shepherd puppy dog biting its human's  barefoot
Never leave your toes and fingers bare for your dog to bite on (Photo: ulianna19970/stock.adobe.com)

Dogs use their mouth and teeth when they’re chewing, examining objects, or interacting with you. Biting isn’t too bad when they’re pups, but as they become older, their use of teeth becomes much more dangerous. As a result, teaching your puppy to be gentle when playing is vital.

This is where bite inhibition becomes essential. Bite inhibition is the process of teaching your dog to control the force with which they mouth. With this form of training, your dog is less likely to injure someone severely if they bite. In addition to this, you must teach your dog that there is no reason for him to bite human skin in the first place.

This is achieved by redirecting your dog’s teeth to something else, such as a chew toy if they try to gnaw on you. It is also your responsibility as a dog owner to never encourage activities or games that promote the reckless use of teeth.

9. Begging

A dog standing over the table begging for food in the kitchen
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Never allow your dog to beg. Do not give in to their puppy looks because doing so sends the message that begging is okay, and they will likely continue to do so in the future.

There are, however, simple measures you can use to reduce your dog’s propensity to beg.

One way is to avoid giving your dog food from the table. Additionally, when you are eating, consider sending your dog to another room or a specific area. Crating your dog during mealtime is also an option as by doing so you won’t have to directly supervise them.

10. Inappropriate Elimination

owner scolding a puppy for eliminating on the carpet
Clean up any soiled areas thoroughly (Photo: alexsokolov/stock.adobe.com)

Inappropriate elimination is a terrible habit that your dog should avoid. It can be exhausting to have to deal with your dog urinating and defecating everywhere. Considering pups are still in the learning phase, it is normal for them to have difficulty eliminating in the correct place. The more pressing problem arises when senior dogs do this.

The reasons for inappropriate elimination differ from dog to dog, but some of them are as follows:

  • Lack of adequate house training
  • Marking
  • Excitement
  • Submission
  • Conflict-related

A medical problem is one of the most frequently overlooked causes of inappropriate elimination. Consult your veterinarian right away if you suspect this is the cause. They will assist you in determining whether or not this is the case.

11. Leash Pulling

Young man being pulled by his german shepherd dog in the road
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Pulling on the leash can cause your dog to cough and gag. This could ultimately lead to your dog suffering from life-long health problems.

If your dog repeatedly pulls on the leash, you must respond by stopping and only continuing to walk after they recognize their error. Stopping isn’t always a good idea if your dog is too aggressive, as, in most situations, they end up dragging you along with them.

You can prevent this by positively reinforcing your dog when they don’t pull on the leash. In doing so, your dog will learn that it is more rewarding to walk calmly.

12. Whining and Howling

A beagle dog howling outside in the grass
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Like barking, dogs use whining and howling as forms of communication. Dogs howl or whine to attract the attention of something or someone. In some cases, a dog will howl or whimper when they are hurt or sick, so it is essential that you take your dog to the vet before doing anything else to rule out any illnesses or medical concerns.

If your dog is whining in order to attract your attention, teach them that it will never work. You can do this by suddenly turning away from your dog and ignoring them. Give your dog attention only after they have stopped whining and are calm. This way, they understand that being quiet is a better approach.

What to do next?

Being a first-time dog owner, you may be unaware of all or some of these problematic behaviours. That said, go ahead and read our article where we offer you advice on other things you may not have known.

Further Reading