Dog Behavior Modification: Solving Common Problems

Tips on dog behavior modification for common dog problems. From jealousy to dominance and destruction, we offer tips on correcting bad dog behavior.

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but it takes quite a bit of training and bonding for them to reach this status. Let’s face it – our furry friends aren’t perfect (neither are humans), but when bad behavior makes it difficult to control the situation or interrupts your daily routine, dog behavior modification is necessary.

The good news is that with a little time and effort, you can correct these issues. Let’s take a closer look at some common dog behavior problems and how you can overcome them.

Jealousy

Does your dog get jealous when you show your other pets or family members attention? No, it’s not all in your head; new research shows that dogs really do get jealous. But this type of behavior can cause issues with both human relationships and the bonds you share with your other pets.

Here are some tips on how to correct this common behavior issue:

  • Deter jealousy with basic obedience. Ask your pup to sit, lay, or stay whenever your partner or pet walks over to you. This alone can help prevent a lot of the commotion and jealous behaviors. Try telling your dog to stay while you give the other person or animal attention, and release your pup from the stay command when you’re through. This lets your dog know that he’ll get attention from you, but only if he behaves.
  • Make it a positive experience. Does your dog get jealous when your cat jumps into your lap? Maybe he freaks out if your partner tries to give you a hug. Turning these experiences into positive ones can change your dog’s behavior. Throw Fido a treat whenever the cat jumps on your lap or before you go in for a hug.
  • Let your partner take control. If your dog is jealous of your significant other, take away his reasons to be jealous. Let your partner feed, walk and play with your pup.

Remember – as with most other behavior issues, correcting jealousy issues will take time, so be persistent in your training.

Territorial Issues

Dogs are, by nature, territorial creatures. They protect their space, their pack and their food. But when living with a human pack, territorial behavior and aggression is usually unnecessary and dangerous.

Whether your dog is guarding his food, toys, treats, people or home, it’s important to understand how to correct this behavior.

If you feel like you can’t control your dog or his level of aggression is extreme, it may be best to work with a professional dog trainer. If you feel confident in your skills as pack leader, here are some tips on correcting territorial behavior:

Basic Obedience

Few things are more important than basic obedience training. If your dog has a solid sit or stay command, you can control most situations. So, if someone knocks at the door, you can calmly and assertively give the sit/stay command to prevent his territorial response.

‘Nothing in Life Is Free’ Training

If your dog is guarding resources, like a tasty bone or treat, you may be accidently reinforcing his behavior. If he knows that he can beg at the table until you get fed up and toss him scraps, he’ll think he’s entitled to it. If he growls or snaps when you try to take his bone away, he knows that making noise means he can keep his treat.

The key here is to re-train your dog, so he understands that all resources (treats, toys, food, etc.) come from you. Start out with something small, like a “sit” command before you give him the reward of putting on his leash and taking him out for a walk. Enforce the “down” command for a few minutes before releasing him to eat his dinner.

By controlling the resources and making your dog work for these rewards, you can put an end to his guarding behavior.

Teaching your dog to earn his treats will help correct guarding behavior

Teaching your dog to earn his treats will help correct guarding behavior

Destructive Behavior

When dogs become destructive, it can be especially challenging for a dog owner. Ironically, it’s one of the simplest to fix (in most cases). But you have to know what’s causing the destructive behavior if you want to correct it.

A few of the most common causes are:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Teething
  • Fears and phobias
  • Attention-craving
  • Isolation/boredom
  • Inconsistent feeding
  • Predatory behavior

One simple way to discourage destructive behavior is to drain his energy. When a dog has too much time and pent up energy on his paws, he’ll resort to destructive behavior to release some of that energy. Try exercising him before you leave for work in the morning and doing mental exercises when you’re at home with him (i.e. positive training games).

If the behavior is caused by separation anxiety or stress, working with a professional dog trainer can help resolve the issue.

Dominance

As a dog owner, you’re the pack leader. At least you think you are. But what does your dog think? If he’s exhibiting dominant behavior, you may be lower in the pecking order than you thought.

Here are some tips on how to handle and correct dominance issues:

  • Be calm and assertive. Dogs can sense when you’re anxious or nervous. A dominant dog will see this as unbalanced behavior, and will try to correct it. If your dog thinks you can’t live up to the challenge of leading the pack, he’ll take over for you. But if you’re calm and assertive, he’ll see that everything is okay, and there’s no need to protect or direct the pack.
  • Set solid boundaries, rules and limitations. These are all important for every dog, but they’re even more important when dealing with a dominant dog. Start taking control and set limits. Don’t let your dog in or out of the door without your permission. Don’t feed him until he’s submissive and calm.

Correcting bad dog behavior will take some time and effort on your part, but the end result – a well behaved dog – is well worth the effort.

Solving Dog Behavior Problems by Preventing Boredom

Dr. Katrina Warren, a Veterinarian and TV Presenter provides some useful tips on how to keep your dog happy during the day while he/she is alone.

Some of her tips include:

  1. Ensuring your dogs gets proper exercise in the morning before you leave.
  2. Give them a job:
    • Create a treasure hunt of kibble for them to find while you are gone.
    • Stuff a chew toy with something yummy, so it takes them a while to enjoy. Freeze it to make the goodies last even longer.
    • Give them interactive toys & puzzles to play with.
  3. Finally she gives a few good toy recommendations suited for this purpose – KONG toys for dogs are great to keep your dog busy & engaged.

Source: YouTube/Dr Katrina Warren

A note from Katrina,

Many of us work long hours and as much as we’d love to be home all the time with our dogs, it isn’t always possible! In this video I’ll help you prevent boredom by giving you tips and recommendations for toys that will give your dog plenty of things to do during the day to help prevent boredom and the often resulting bad behaviors such as digging & chewing!