Dog Behavioral Problems - and Solutions!

(Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM) Every dog is unique. Some dogs are well-behaved since birth, others learn along the way, and others don't seem to want to learn at all, no matter how hard you try. However, some issues that seem insignificant at first can develop into (serious) behavioral problems.

Often these problems are misunderstood and mistreated by owners. Understanding them, where they come from, and trying to fix them, can help your dog become more balanced.

All of your dog's behavior problems can become frustrating when your dog doesn't listen, and you can't control it.

Behavioral Problems in Dogs

Behavioral problems are manifestations or unwanted reactions of some dogs in certain situations. Not all dogs have behavioral problems. These problems do not necessarily have a direct link to whether or not to go through a training program, but most of the time, it can help.

The causes of behavioral problems in dogs can be multiple:

  • Genetic
  • Medical
  • Traumatic
  • Psychological
  • Education
  • Training errors

The endearment and excessive permissiveness of dog owners often lead to failure to recognize their authority.

The Social System in Dogs

Dogs have a simple social system, which is based on a hierarchical pyramid. At the top of this pyramid will only be one leader - the dog or the owner (in the case of owned dogs). In this case, the dog will climb in the hierarchy to where it is allowed.

For example, if you don't want you quadruped to share the same bed at night with you but still allow it 2-3 times because you feel sorry for your pet, don't expect it to understand when you vehemently say "no" the fourth time. Your dog has already learned it is allowed to sleep in your bed, and it will do everything it can to occupy the first place in the hierarchy.

Another good example is restricting your dog when it gets out or enters the door - you must not allow your dog to get out or enter the door first when you take it out or return from the walk.

6 Most Common Behavioral Disorders in Dogs and How to Fix Them

1. Chewing

Many animals explore the world with their mouths, including dogs. But chewing things doesn't just come from the desire to explore, and has other causes also:

  • Teething in puppies
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Excess energy

Excessive chewing becomes a problem when your pet starts destroying things. Chewing on household objects can lead to obstructions or perforations of the digestive tract in case of swallowing. Your pet can also damage its teeth if it chews hard objects.

What You Can Do

Encourage your dog to chew the right things when you see it gnawing on something it shouldn't.

  • Distract your pet with a sharp noise.
  • Say "no" and give it a chew toy, switching it with the object your dog is chewing.
  • Praise your pet when it starts chewing the toy.
  • Keep your items away from your dog.
  • Lock your pet in a cage or keep it in a room or place where it can't cause any damage when you're away from home.
  • Dogs often chew objects out of boredom. Make sure your pet moves a lot to consume its energy and is stimulated.

2. Barking

Howling, barking, growling, and yelping are active means of canine communication and play a well-defined role in the pack. Most dogs become noisy when faced with an unusual situation, show discomfort, or signal the appearance of an intruder.

Although most dogs communicate through vocalization, excessive barking is considered a behavioral problem.

Dogs bark for many reasons, including:

  • Warning
  • Strong emotion
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Boredom
  • Seeking attention
  • Hunger

What You Can Do

Usually, you can correct your dog's excessive barking through training sessions, where your dog will learn to behave and bark or be quiet on command.

To be successful on your own, your dog's barking needs to be stopped immediately from the beginning. The procedure must be repeated until your pet no longer reacts noisily (at which point it can receive a treat).

Do not yell at your pet when it barks. Yelling can make the situation worse.
If your dog lives in the yard, bringing it inside for a moment can help improve the situation. Do not bring your dog when it barks excessively because it will associate this behavior with a positive thing (if it likes it inside).

3. Aggression/Biting

Dogs learn to bite when they are young when their mother disciplines them. The state of aggression in dogs can be:

  • Dominant.
  • Possessive (includes competitive aggression).
  • Out of fear (includes aggression generated by pain).
  • Protective (this includes territorial aggression and maternal aggression).
  • Between males.
  • Out of hunting instinct.
  • Learned.
  • For unknown reasons.

The dog defends its territory from strangers, and the females defend the place where they nurture their pups.

In the house, dogs can become attached to objects or places. Taking the toy or food bowl from time to time when your dog is a puppy is a good exercise to prevent future aggressive reactions when it is an adult.

Inadequate or unstable hierarchical position can also be a source of aggression.

What You Can Do

  • Go for a walk with your dog on a leash, and do not let other people or animals interact too much with it.
  • Supervises any contact between a child and your dog.
  • Use a muzzle when you go for a walk with your pet.
  • Stop biting games since your dog is a puppy.
  • Train your dog - the sessions not only train your pet but also teach you how to deal with it.

4. Jumping

Jumping up in dogs is normal, and they learn this behavior when they are puppies - they jump on their mothers to greet them. So, it is natural for a dog to greet people by jumping up, but they can scare guests with this behavior. It can also be dangerous (large dogs can knock people down) and annoying.

Other reasons why dogs jump up are:

  • The dog is excited.
  • Attention seeking.
  • The dog is looking for an item in the person's hands.

What You Can Do

  • Turn your back when your dog jumps on you.
  • Do not pay attention to your pet until it is on all fours.
  • Do not talk, look at it, or touch your dog. All this can send the wrong message.
  • Interact with your dog only when it is calm.
  • Keep a toy by the door. You can give it to your pet to redirect its attention when you come home.

Other methods such as pushing the dog, grabbing the front paws, or lifting one knee may work, but only in some cases. Many times this behavior comes from seeking attention, and when you push your dog or make eye contact, you give it what it wants.

5. Whining for Attention

Whining is especially common in puppies because they learn to communicate their needs and desires. Puppies cry to get attention and food from their mother in the same way babies cry.

Pay attention to how you react to your dog's whining and try to understand the underlying reason. Encouraging whining, even unintentionally, can turn it into problematic behavior, and you will have a dog that whines excessively.

The most common reasons why dogs whine are:

  • The dog asks for something
  • Attention seeking
  • Excitement
  • Boredom
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Stress

What You Can Do

  • Go to the vet to rule out any medical cause.
  • Don't look, talk, or touch your dog. These can encourage your dog's unwanted behavior.
  • Ignore your dog by turning your back, crossing your arms, or leaving the room.
  • Interact with your dog when it is not whining.
  • Never punish or yell at your dog for whining, as this can make it more frightened or anxious and lead to aggressive behavior.

6. Inappropriate Elimination

Improper elimination (urination and defecations) is an issue that should be addressed as soon as possible. The first step is to figure out why your dog is eliminating in the house. There are several reasons why dogs exhibit this behavior:

  • Medical problems
  • Age
  • Behavior problems
  • Marking the territory
  • Anxiety or stress

What You Can Do

  • Go to the vet to rule out any medical cause.
  • Identify the trigger - avoid areas that could trigger this behavior in your dog.
  • Use relaxation methods if you have an anxious or stressed dog - diffusers or music for dogs.
  • Do not hit or yell at your dog. These behaviors lead to an even more frightened dog.
  • Increase bathroom breaks - take your dog outside as soon as it has eaten, drunk, or woken up.
  • Re-train your dog.
  • Properly clean every place your dog eliminated improperly - use enzymatic detergents to remove the smell of urine so your dog no longer feels that an "accident" has occurred in that place.
  • Seek the help of a professional.


Dr. Iuliana Mihai, DVM, Masters In Small Animals And Equines Pathology

Iuliana graduated from the University of Agronomical Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in 2012, Romania. She has a Master’s degree in Small Animal and Equines Pathology and a strong affinity for Veterinary Parasitology and Laboratory. In 2013 she started her Ph.D. in epithelial cancer in dogs and cats. She volunteered at the faculty’s clinic in her 3rd year of study, and continued her career in small animal pathology and laboratory. She has one cat and eleven rats. Her interests outside of work include traveling, writing, and crafting.


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