Does Your Dog Have Behavior Issues? 7 Signs and How to Fix Them

When you think of the relationship between canine and human, unconditional bonds come to mind, as they should – they don’t call them man’s best friend for nothin’. But, what happens when your very best fur-friend starts displaying some not so friendly behaviors? Determining what to do and how to rectify the situation can be an overwhelming and scary prospect. In reality, getting to the root of the problem is the only hope that you have of permanently resolving the issues. When your precious pet acts a little ‘off’, you could find yourself asking ‘Does my dog have behavioral issues?’ Which is a natural question – one that we are happy to answer. Keep reading for 7 signs of common behavioral issues and how to fix them.

7. Lack of Boundaries:

Some dogs are naturally over-excitable and in most cases, it does not cause any serious issues, however, if your pooch also displays a lack of boundaries, it can quickly become a problem. Jumping on people, pulling the leash during walks, stealing food, and generally invading space are all signs of your dog having no boundaries or boundaries that are not being enforced. It is up to you to let Fido know what his boundaries are as well as enforcing those boundaries.

The Fix:

When your fur-friend does not understand boundaries, it can be frustrating and embarrassing. Luckily, it is usually a relatively easy fix. Setting the rules and sticking to them is step one. You then need to reinforce them using treats of praise as a positive reinforcement when he does indeed respect the limits.

6. Being Mouthy:

Is your dog a mouthy one? This can include howling, barking, and whimpering. It can also refer to biting or nipping behaviors. Many dogs tend to use their mouths to communicate in one way or another, however, they need to be trained when it is appropriate to do so and when it is not. For obvious reasons, any type of excessive mouthing behaviors needs to be nipped (pun totally intended) in the bud. Although most likely unintentional, nipping, and biting, even if it is just playfully, could result in injury and serious repercussions for the pup.

The Fix:

Again reinforcement is the most important aspect of breaking this habit. If it is a severe issue, you could also consider using a muzzle (via Amazon) to curb the behavior. Sometimes an expert that is trained in obedience might need to be called in. Consistency is also key. The more he is told (and shown) that his behavior is unacceptable, the quicker he will stop.

5. Separation Anxiety:

Many times behavioral issues stem from something called separation anxiety which can cause unwanted habits such as howling, barking, chewing, digging, and other destructive behaviors. Separation anxiety is a disorder that is characterized by an irrational fear of being separated from their human. The symptoms of this particular disorder can be an annoyance, of course, but it is also a terrifying situation for your dog to go through as they really can’t truly understand what is happening. If you believe that your dog is exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, you need to seek treatment promptly.

The Fix:

If you suspect that your pet is dealing with separation anxiety, a veterinary examination is likely necessary. This is to rule out any underlying causes as well as determine if medication is warranted. In addition to any treatment recommended by the veterinarian, you could also take some steps at home. Conditioning your pooch is as simple as getting him used to your leaving. This should be done in small increments, gradually lengthening the time that you are away. Placing something with your scent in his kennel, playpen (AmazonBasics Foldable Metal Playpen via Amazon), or area in the house will go a long way in soothing his anxiousness.

4. Possessiveness:

There is a difference between attachment and possessiveness. Being attached to you is absolutely natural, but if aggression starts to rear its ugly head, it is time to examine and correct the behavior. And, possessiveness does not have to revolve around you and your bond with Fido, dogs can get possessive towards favorite toys, food, and water bowls, even entire areas of the home and/or yard. If your pooch is showing signs of aggression, or of being overprotective, of anything really, the behavior needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

The Fix:

Obedience training classes and extra socialization are two of the easiest ways to ease your dog’s over-possessiveness. Continuous reinforcement training will help to keep him in line. As soon as he starts to again show signs of being possessive, it needs to be addressed and reinforced that it is not acceptable. Like a little kid, teach Fido that he needs to share.

3. Hyperactivity:

If your pup seems to have the canine equivalent of ADHD or is just simply guilty of being overly hyperactive, it could be considered a behavioral issue. A hyperactive dog is more difficult to train or control. This can end up being a dangerous situation for both you and your dog. If Fido is having problems calming himself down, listening, or focusing, and it is affecting everyday life (your and/or his), you need to try to curb the behavior.

The Fix:

Some breeds are more hardwired to be hyper than others. If the hyperactive behaviors are ingrained into the breed it will be a bit more complicated to get under control and may require professional intervention. Medication and traditional training methods can help, especially if it is a learned behavior. An effective method for dealing with hyperactivity is to ignore your dog until he calms down and then reward him with attention. This might take a couple of tries but he will soon learn to associate the two, realizing that he must be calm to get the recognition that he craves.

2. Destruction:

Chewing, digging, and other unwanted destructive behaviors are not uncommon but they do need to be addressed. Destructive habits can stem from prior experience, past neglect or abuse, or even an underlying medical condition such as canine dementia or separation anxiety.

The Fix:

Redirecting his attention and using positive reinforcement are two of the most efficient ways of breaking this particular habit. However, the only way to know for certain what will work is by knowing what exactly is causing the act in the first place. Ideally, a veterinary visit should be at the top of the list, if for nothing else than to rule out any medical cause.

1. Aggression

This is, paws down, the most serious behavioral issue. Aggressive behaviors can originate from the background of the dog, health problems, pain, or even random and unknown triggers. This type of behavior can escalate to dangerous levels if not thwarted swiftly. It also must be dealt with correctly as the wrong reaction could make it worse. If you notice that your dog is starting to show signs of aggression take him into the vet as soon as possible. More serious causes need to be excluded and a plan of action be put into place.

The Fix:

Typically bloodwork and other diagnostic treatments will be recommended to eliminate medical reasons behind the aggression. The veterinarian might also recommend medication in addition to behavioral therapy.

Common Causes:

There are many reasons for dogs to have or develop behavioral issues and finding out the cause is the number one step in successfully rectifying the behavior. Depending on background, breed, and even personality, behavioral issues can be long-brewing or seemingly pop up out of nowhere. This is just one of the reasons that regular veterinary care is so important, as regular examinations are more likely to catch, and treat, any behavioral changes before they worsen.

A Few of the Necessary Tools: (links to Amazon Products)

  • Leash and Collar or Harness: As with any relationship, there is likely to be somewhat of a power struggle between you and your pooch, at least until he gets the hang of things. A leash and collar or harness will help you keep control of your pooch during training and in social situations.
  • Kennel or Playpen: When you are dealing with doggy behavioral issues, it is best to keep him confined to a designated area when you are not home. A crate or kennel will do, although a doggy playpen offers more room to move around.
  • Treats: When your dog shows improvement it is only right to reward him. The training treats should be separate, and different, from his everyday treats. This is to help him associate those particular ones with good behavior.
  • Toys: Not unlike us as humans, dogs can get bored too, which can lead to negative actions and/or conduct. Providing Fido with his own toys will prevent him from using your belongings as playthings too.

Keep in Mind:

No situation is hopeless, especially with all the advancements in veterinary care these days. Preventative care can sometimes deter behavioral issues from developing, particularly in cases where medical conditions or breed come into play. A healthy dog is usually (not always) a happy dog. Be sure that your pooch is getting enough exercise, love, and attention, is eating a well-balanced diet, and receiving the appropriate medical care.

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8 thoughts on “Does Your Dog Have Behavior Issues? 7 Signs and How to Fix Them”

    1. Hi Robin,
      Certainly! Food will affect their insulin, hormones, everything. In fact, there have even been studies proving that raw diets can calm dogs, making them more suitable socially, more so than dry-fed dogs. You can check out one of those studies here:
      The influence of nutrition on canine behaviour
      Also consider that dry food contains a lot of cheap filler and is mostly carbs, which can spike blood sugar levels and cause disruptive behavior (like a sugar-high). If your dog has behavior issues, I’d definitely give a fresh/raw food meal plan a shot! 🙂

  1. Albertina Leeds

    About aggressive behavior in dogs, can bringing another more docile dog into effect and help to improve it?

    1. Hi Albertina,
      The short answer is yes…and no. Dogs are incredibly social animals and normally will be happier around other dogs, however in some cases another dog could exasperate the issues. Ultimately, there’s many variables to consider and a second dog could never be a substitute for more attentive care from the owner. Personally, I think that I would try to get things to a level of comfort first, see how they react around other dogs socially, and then maybe talk to a vet or a trainer first before bringing in another companion. Hope this helps. 🙂

    1. Puppies are ready for basic commands training at about 3 months. HOWEVER, you should always try to practice positive reinforcement training techniques and avoid punishment entirely. Remember that repetition is much more important than force. Training takes time, but if you are patient and consistent, your puppy will start to figure things out. Never yell, use pain, fear, or your dog’s name as punishment. In fact, many so-called scoldings can actually make your dog MORE aggressive long-term. I would focus on positive reinforcement training techniques. A great guide we recommend for this is called: Cesar’s Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog (amazon affiliate link).

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