Dealing With Behavior Problems

The best way to stop behavior problems is to prevent them from ever starting. In some cases, preventing a behavior problem in a pet means not getting a pet in the first place if your aren't willing to work hard to prevent and correct such problems. Too many people get a boisterous puppy, then don't know how to deal with the puppy when it chews up the antique needlepoint pillow. Animals are going to do disappointing things like chew on valuable items, get sick in front of guests or have an accident in the house. Some of this is to be expected, just as it is to be expected with young children. If you are not ready to take the bad with the good and accept a few mishaps, then a dog may not be for you. But if you are fully armed for the prospect of unpleasantness, then you are ready to tackle a puppies behavior problems and mold him or her into a wonderful companion and well-behaved citizen.

The Nature of Dogs

Before delving into specific behavior problems, it is helpful to know why a dog is the way it is. Once you understand "dogness" you can better realize why he behaves as he does and that his inappropriate behavior isn't meant to vex you.

First of all, dogs are by nature pack animals; like wolves in the wild. This means that they live in a highly socialized group that has its own order. Each pack is run by the pack leader, the alpha dog. All the other pack members defer to the pack leader and obey his wishes. this explains much about a dog's behavior. First, a dog is not a solitary animal. In fact, being by himself goes against the very nature of a dog. Members of a pack sleep, eat and hunt together. They are a close knit community.

Pet dog need a pack too, in this case, your family. A dog will generally listen to and seek to please the family leaders, the mother, father, or whoever owns the dog. Because dogs are social animals, they can become stressed, fearful and bored if left alone for long periods of time. This can lead to destructive behavior, not because the dog is trying to get back at you for leaving him, but because he is frightened or bored, and chewing is a natural way for a dog to relieve such stress.

Dogs are also den animals. this natural den impulse is why giving your dog his own crate to sleep in is such a good idea. Rather than feeling trapped in the crate, the dog sees it as his own space; a little retreat where he feels safe. If the crate is large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably, he should not urinate or defecate in it because dogs don't eliminate inside their dens. This makes using a crate an ideal way to house train a dog. For more info on crate training

Working With Dogs to Prevent and Correct Behavior Problems

Dog owners must realize that their dogs are not out to get them. Chewing is a perfectly normal behavior for a dog, but is an inappropriate behavior when its done on items other than the dogs toys. You have to find a way to channel inappropriate behaviors into proper ones. Although dogs will not eliminate in their dens, they have a different perception of "den" than you do. You have to teach the dog that the den is the whole house. As annoying as it may be to you, dogs learn that jumping on people is a great way to get attention; even if it is negative. Once you understand that, its easier to correct a problem before it begins.

There are certain basics that will help you teach your dog appropriate behavior. First of all, its easier to prevent a problem behavior than to correct one later. If you correct a small puppy when he jumps on you, he will soon learn that this is not good behavior and give up. For chewing, teaching the dog to chew on appropriate items, such as sturdy toys, before he learns to munch on the rug. Giving a puppy an old shoe to chew will lead to them chewing on your good shoes; they can't tell the difference. Always praise the puppy for chewing on the right things. Teach them what is right before you punish them for what is wrong.

There are three rules to dog training: Be firm (not harsh), fair and consistent. Here are a few tips to follow to help to stick to these rules and aid in your training.

Handling Specific Behavior Problems

I hope this overall guideline will help to solve most of the behavior problems you will encounter with your dog.

House training

There are five major rules to House training a dog. If you follow there guidelines you can look forward to having a dog who seldom, if ever, has accidents.


There are many reasons for destructive behaviors such as chewing. Unfortunately, the reasons pets do destructive things can usually be traced back to the situation we put our pets in. Imagine finding yourself alone all day, day in and day out with little or nothing to occupy your mind or paws. Dogs relieve anxiety and stress brought on by the long hours alone by chewing. Chewing is a natural outlet for a dog's stress, the problem comes when the dog chooses to chew on furniture, clothing or anything else of value. As mentioned before, you have to show your dog the right things to chew on. To do this, play a little game of fetch with a chew toy to get the dog used to picking it up and chewing on it. Praise the dog for this proper behavior. When the dog attempts to chew something you don't want him to, tell him "NO" and give him a chew toy saying "Get your toy". Play the fetch game with your dog repeating the command "Get your toy" until he responds by getting the toy himself.

Next you can set up a training area by placing things he has ever chewed on that you don't want him to, also place his chew toy there. When your dog comes in and even so much as sniffs one of the other items loudly correct him with "NO". Give the command "get your toy" if your dog responds be getting the right toy praise lavishly. Repeat this senario every few days until your dog walks in the room and straight to his toys only

The dog now know that by chewing on anything other than his toys he will be corrected. But that you will play with him if he chews on the appropriate things. Remember to reward your dog with praise, lots of praise. Praise him whenever he chews on his toys, don't wait for him to make a mistake just to punish him.

Sometimes the wrong kinds of toys can exacerbate a chewing problem. Giving old socks, shoes, or discarded clothing encourages destructive chewing. Choose toys that can't be dismantled but exercise the dogs head. Hiding a cookie inside a rubber kong can keep a dog busy for hours.


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Separation Anxiety

Dogs can be destructive if they are fearful of your leaving them. This is called "Separation Anxiety". You must convince your dog that your coming and going are no big deal, no threat. If you know your dog is going to destroy the house the minute you walk out the door and you always tell him" Please be good, I'll be back soon. Don't chew on anything, you bad dog" you are only emphasizing your departure. Don't make leaving a ritual you follow each time. The best thing is never say good-bye, it can be hard, but for your dog's sake you have to strive for this. Get up half an hour earlier than usual. Walk, feed and play with your dog just like normal all you want, but in the last half hour before you leave, do not talk, pet or even look at your dog. Treat him like he does not exist. When its time to leave just walk out. In the half hour that you ignored your dog, he settled down, relaxed and started to nap. Good. Now on your arrival home, walk calmly in and take the dog out to potted. Calmly greet him, no big scenes. Of course using a crate when you leave will give the dog a sense of security, and guarantee your house will be in one piece when you return.

Leash Pulling

Stopping your dog from pulling on the leash has many benefits, such as saving you a trip to the chiropractor. But even more important is developing a healthy relationship; one in which you are the leader and your dog is the follower. This sets the tone for future training. Walk your dog on a six foot leather leash, holding the leash in both hands, do not wrap it around your hands. Hold the leash firmly and when you fell the slightest pressure turn and walk the other way. Your dog will be surprised and run back to catch up with you. Praise him, and keep walking. Most dogs will learn to keep a close eye on you after only a few about turns. Repeat these steps as needed, until your dog learns to walk with you like a civilized animal.


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Jumping Up

Pets generally consider jumping up as a means to satisfy their need for attention or play. From a very young age, a puppy can find that jumping will be met with rewards. Just remember one rule, jumping will soon disappear if it is not rewarded. You should not even reward the puppy by scolding. Simply ignore the action and walk away. Eventually the puppy will stop. The whole family must be consistent in this or it will not be affective.

To correct a dog who already has a bad habit of jumping up, you should physically push him away and say "OFF". Physically put the dog in a sitting position and tell him to "sit". If you have to, push down on his hindquarters and pull up on his collar until he sits. Now you can praise him and give him the attention he was asking for by jumping up.


Remember a dog is going to bark, it is a natural means of expression and communication and should not be unduly suppressed. However, some dogs do bark excessively, and it is helpful to teach them not to bark unnecessarily. When a dog is barking unnecessarily, go to them and say "Shush" while offering a treat. As they sniff the treat, which will require them to stop barking, praise them quietly; saying "Good Shush" then give the treat. Talking in whispers will encourage a dog to listen.

Another method for persistent barkers is to put a few pennies in a coffee can or other metal container with a lid. Shake the can when they are barking and tell them to "shush" or "no bark". The noise will startle them and they will stop barking. You can also try a squirt gun to squirt water or diluted lemon juice at the dog's face. Both of these methods serve to draw the dog's attention away from whatever they were barking at and back to you and your commands.


It is crucial to stop a dog from nipping right from the start, so he won't get the idea that it is ever acceptable. Puppies bite, play biting is a normal, natural behavior and necessary part of a puppies development. Play biting is the means by which puppies develop bite inhibition. Although play biting may not feel good, puppies do not mean serious harm. By receiving feedback they will eventually learn bite inhibition.

The best way to stop a puppy biting is to let the puppy know that play biting is not acceptable, simply saying "ouch" loudly and removing your hand from him lets him know his biting distresses you. Leaving the area of play and leaving him alone if he bites too hard is another way to get him to realize that the play session will end and biting gets him nowhere. If you have an insistent puppy you can grab the top of his muzzle and placing his lips against his teeth gently press till the puppy cries. When the puppy leaves do not follow to apologize to him that is the response you are looking for.

If you have an older dog that nips or bites, you should seek the advise and training of a professional dog trainer to handle this serious behavior problem.

There are a lot of methods to train dogs, these are the best ways I have found for dealing with these particular behavior problems in Labrador and Goldens. These are usually soft dogs who do not require harsh corrections to correct bad behavior; vocal corrections are usually all that is needed to get the dog to understand what you are asking from them. Just remember to be fair to the dog, they can not read minds, you need to show them what is expected of them before you correct what they are doing wrong. And remember corrections after the fact only tend to confuse the dog, if you find evidence of misbehavior do not call the dog to the site and punish him, it will only serve to teach them not to come. If you were not paying attention to the dogs behavior then you are the one at fault not the dog.

Please find an obedience class in your area all dogs can benefit from even a puppy kindergarten class. Early training will lead to easier training as they get older. All they want to do is please you, your job is to show them how they can learn to please you.

Good Luck

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