The Most Common Dog Behaviour Problems


Most dogs bark, howl and whine to some degree. Excessive barking is considered a behaviour problem.

Before you can correct barking, determine why your dog is vocalising in the first place.

These are the most common types of barking:

  • Warning or Alert
  • Playfulness/Excitement
  • Attention-seeking
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Responding to Other Dogs

Learn to control excessive barking. Be consistent and patient. Also, consider teaching the Bark/Quiet Commands. Dedication and attention to detail can go a long way.


Chewing is a natural action for all dogs; it’s just a part of the way they are wired.

However, chewing can quickly become a behaviour problem if your dog causes destruction.

The most common reasons dogs chew are as follows:

  • Puppy Teething
  • Boredom/Excess Energy
  • Anxiety
  • Curiosity (especially puppies)

Encourage your dog to chew on the right things by providing plenty of chew toys. Keep personal items away from your dog.

When you are not home, keep your dog crated or confined to an area where less destruction can be caused.

If you catch your dog chewing the wrong thing, quickly correct him with a sharp noise. Then, replace the item with a chew toy.

One of the most important things you can do is make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise!


If given the chance, most dogs will do some amount of digging; it’s a matter of instinct.

Certain breeds, like Terriers, are more prone to digging because of their hunting histories.

In general, most dogs dig for these reasons:

  • Boredom or Excess Energy
  • Anxiety or Fear
  • Hunting Instinct
  • Comfort-Seeking (such as nesting or cooling off)
  • Hiding Possessions (like bones or toys)
  • To Escape or Gain Access

If your dog digs up your garden, it can get pretty frustrating for you. Try and determine the cause of the digging, then work to eliminate that source.

Spend more time with your dog, give him more exercise, and work on extra training.

If digging is inevitable, set aside an area where your dog can learn it is “okay” to dig, like a sandbox.


Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly discussed dog behaviour problems. Manifestations include vocalisation, chewing, inappropriate urination and defecation, and other forms of destruction that occur when a dog is separated from its owner.

Not all of these actions are the result of separation anxiety. Signs of true separation anxiety include:

  • Dog becomes anxious when owner prepares to leave
  • Misbehaviour occurs in the first 15-45 minutes after owner leaves
  • Dog wants to follow owner around constantly
  • Dog tries to be touching owner whenever possible

True separation anxiety requires dedicated training, behaviour modification and desensitisation exercises. Medication may be recommended in extreme cases, but this should be a last resort.


Inappropriate urination and defecation are among the most frustrating dog behaviours. They can damage areas of your home and make your dog unwelcome in public places or at the homes of others.

It is most important that you discuss this behaviour with your veterinarian first to rule out health problems.

If no medical cause is found, try to determine the reason for the behaviour, which can come down to one of the following:

  • Submissive/Excitement Urination
  • Territorial Marking
  • Anxiety
  • Attention-seeking
  • Lack of proper house training

Inappropriate elimination is unavoidable in puppies, especially before 12 weeks of age. Older dogs are another story. Many dogs require serious behaviour modification to rid them of the habit because you must often alter their perception of themselves.


Owners actually encourage it. This can lead to digestive problems and obesity. Dogs beg because they love food. However, table scraps are not treats. Yes, it is hard to resist that longing look, but giving in “just this once” creates a problem in the long run. When you teach your dog that begging is permitted, you are sending the wrong message.

Before you sit down to eat, tell your dog to go to his place, preferably where he will not be able to stare at you. If necessary, confine him to another room. If he behaves, give him a special treat only after you and your family have completely finished eating.


A dog’s desire to chase moving things is simply a display of predatory instinct. Many dogs will chase other animals, people, and cars. All of these can lead to dangerous and devastating outcomes!

While you may not be able to stop your dog from trying to chase, you can take steps to prevent disaster:

  • Keep your dog on a lead at all times (unless directly supervised indoors)
  • Train your dog to come when called
  • Have a dog whistle or noisemaker on hand to get your dog’s attention
  • Stay aware and watch for potential triggers, like joggers

Your best chance at success is to keep the chase from getting out of control. Dedicated training over the course of your dog’s life will teach him to focus his attention on you first, before running off.


Puppies jump up to reach and greet their mothers. Later, they may jump up when greeting people. A jumping dog can be annoying and even dangerous. There are many methods to stop a dog’s jumping, but not all will be successful. Lifting a knee, grabbing the paws, or pushing the dog away might work for some, but for most dogs, this sends the wrong message. Jumping up is often attention-seeking behaviour, so any acknowledgment of your dog’s actions is providing a reward!

The best method is simply to turn away and ignore your dog. Do not make eye contact, speak, or touch your dog. Go about your business. When he relaxes and remains still, calmly reward him. It won’t take long before your dog gets the message.


Dogs bite for reasons that can be traced back to instinct and pack mentality. Puppies bite and nip on other dogs and people as a means for exploring their environment and learning their place in the pack. Owners must show their puppies that mouthing and biting are not acceptable by teaching bite inhibition.

Beyond puppy behaviour, the motivation to bite or snap typically comes from the following:

  • Fear or Defensiveness
  • Protection of Property
  • Pain or Sickness
  • Dominance Assertion
  • Predatory Instinct

Though some breeds are thought to be dangerous, it is my belief that breed-specific legislation is not the answer. Owners and breeders are the ones who can help decrease the tendency for any type of dog to bite through proper training, socialisation and breeding practices.


Dog aggression is exhibited by growling, snarling, showing teeth, lunging and biting. It is important to know that any dog has the potential to become aggressive, regardless of breed or history. However, dogs with violent or abusive histories and those bred from dogs with aggressive tendencies are much more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour towards people or other dogs.

Reasons for aggression are basically the same as the reasons a dog will bite or snap, but overall canine aggression is a much more serious problem.

If your dog has aggressive tendencies, consult your vet first as it may stem from a health problem. Then, seek the help of an experienced dog trainer or behaviourist. Serious measures should be taken to keep others safe from aggressive dogs!

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