Problem Solving

Sometimes dogs can develop problem behaviors that require your attention, such as chewing, digging, barking and jumping. You should learn how to spot these types of behavior and how to revert your dogs behavior back to normal.

Sometimes dogs can suddenly exhibit problem behaviors. Even dogs that are otherwise always on their best behavior can exhibit problem behaviors. Since dogs have no sense of morality, they don't do one thing because it's "wrong" and another thing because it's "right." They just do whatever works for them. For example, if you see your dog chewing on a chair leg and give him/her a cookie to distract him/her from the furniture, you have taught him/her that the next time he/she wants a cookie, all he/she has to do is find a good piece of furniture to gnaw on.

The following are some common problems:

All dogs need to chew. For puppies, it is one way of exploring the world around them and can also use up some of their indefatigable energy; for older dogs, chewing may result from anxiety or boredom. Another common reason that dogs are chewers is simply that they enjoy it. Because it is impossible for a puppy to determine what is acceptable to chew on and what is not, he/she must be supervised whenever possible. When you see him/her starting to chew on something, say"No!" and give him/her something else to gnaw on. When he/she has to be left alone for a period of time, confine him/her to his/her crate along with appropriate chew toys.

For dogs, the urge to digging is innate—they just can't help themselves. So how can you keep your yard (or living room carpet!) from ending up with a bunch of holes in it? One approach is to provide your dog with a place where it's okay for him/her to dig, like a small sandbox in the backyard. Just keep in mind that digging is a natural behavior for dogs. With some supervision, you may be able to protect certain sacred areas from digging paws, but for a dog to dig is normal behavior and really shouldn't be punished.

Excessive Barking
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, including excitement, protection, and aggression. However, dogs also bark to get attention. If your pup is using his/her bark to get attention, ignore him/her until he/she quiets down, and then calmly pet him/her. If you yell at a barking dog, he/she may think you are joining in and want to help him/her make a lot of noise, which will only encourage this unwanted behavior. Yelling at him/her is also giving him/her what he/she wants: attention.

One method sometimes used to conquer an excessive barking habit is to use a shaker can. A shaker can is just an empty soda can filled with a few coins or small pebbles. The next time your dog starts barking, give him/her a command, such as No Bark, and shake the can. The noise should startle him/her and distract him/her from his barking. Once he/she has stopped barking, praise him/her and reward him/her with a treat.

Jumping Up
When we are reunited with old friends or make new acquaintances, it is customary to shake hands, hug, or give a kiss on the cheek. For most dogs, jumping up is simply a type of greeting. If you do not want your adult dog to greet people in this way, discourage the behavior when he/she is a puppy.

When you see your puppy coming to greet you, get down on your knees and make a fuss over him/her. As you're doing this, put your thumb in his/her collar under his/her chin, applying gentle pressure so he/she can't jump up. Praise him/her only when all four of his/her paws are on the ground. When you have visitors, make sure your puppy is on a leash before you open the door. This will enable you to control his/her behavior without having to have your hand on his/her collar.

When your dog begins to exhibit a problem behavior, try to work on correcting it right away. The longer you let it go on, the harder it will be to correct it. Some problem behaviors get to the point where they are almost impossible for the average owner to handle. If you think your dog may need the kind of help that you can't give him/her, don't hesitate to seek the help of a professional trainer.

Separation Anxiety
You’re preparing to leave your house. You head for the door and pick up your keys along the way. The moment your keys give a little jingle, your dog is at your side, barking incessantly (with some howling thrown in for good measure). It almost seems like he knows you’re leaving and he/she’s trying to block your path to the door. Separation anxiety is one of the most common canine behavioral problems. It is estimated that about 15 percent of dogs in the United States suffer from this problem. A dog with separation anxiety will become extremely distressed when he/she realizes that you are about to leave home. Once you’re gone, he/she may howl, bark, urinate, defecate, or otherwise wreak havoc throughout the house. If your dog is misbehaving, either when you’re getting ready to leave, after you leave, or at both times, consider the possibility that he may have separation anxiety. As tempting as it might be to get upset with your dog, you should take a moment to consider what the underlying causes might be.

First of all, your dog may be afraid that when you leave you will not return. If your dog was previously abandoned, he/she will be especially susceptible to this fear. Another cause might simply be confusion. If you spent a few weeks at home with your new dog or were home for summer vacation, for example, your dog will have gotten used to spending time with you. If you return to work or are away for any reason for an extended length of time, your dog will be confused by this unexpected alone time and will perhaps think you’re not coming back. In both of these situations, it may take a while for him/her to learn that you haven’t permanently left him/her.

How can you help a dog that is suffering from separation anxiety? Try to work on gradually desensitizing your dog to being left alone. First, discourage him/her from following you around the house when you are home by giving him/her something to occupy his/her time, like chewing on a bone. You can also periodically jingle your keys or jiggle the doorknob without actually leaving the house so your pup stops associating these actions with being left alone. When it’s time to leave the house, don’t make a big deal about it, but simply walk out the door without looking at him/her. It may also help to leave the television or radio playing while you’re gone so the house is not completely quiet.

An additional way to help rid your pup of separation anxiety or to keep him/her from developing this problem in the first place is to teach him/her some basic obedience commands. When your dog has gained some skills, he/she will be more confident and will naturally lose some of his anxiety.

If you feel like you’ve tried everything and your dog is still exhibiting significant problem behaviors, you made need to seek the help of a professional. They can work on behavior modification with your pet and prescribe medication if necessary. Leaving your dog home alone should not be a traumatic experience for you or your pet. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help to assist your dog in overcoming this problem.