How to Solve 7 Common Dog Behavioral Issues

We love our dogs, but let’s be honest: Sometimes their behavior drives us bananas. No animal is perfect. And dogs and pet parents alike always have more to learn—especially when it comes to managing behavioral issues. Here are some potential solutions for seven common dog behavioral issues. Remember, consistency is key when training your dog to do anything.

1. Excessive barking

Barking is how dogs communicate, and it’s not realistic to expect them to stop speaking entirely. But you can work to decrease excessive barking. According to the ASPCA, there’s territorial, alarm, attention-seeking, greeting, compulsive, socially facilitated and frustration-induced barking. Your dog also might bark due to an illness or injury, as well as separation anxiety.

To curb excessive barking, you first must determine why your dog is being vocal in the first place. If it’s territorial or alarm barking, work on the “quiet” command. Your dog will learn you’ve gotten their message, and they don’t have to sound an alert anymore. If they’re barking for attention, simply don’t give it to them. Turn your back or walk away, and show them you mean business, too. Also, try redirecting their excitement with a toy, as most dogs find it difficult to bark and hold something in their mouth at the same time. Only pet and praise them when they’re quiet.

Yorkiepoo Puppy Guarding a Bed of Toys

2. Resource guarding

Lots of dogs engage in resource guarding—meaning they protect valued items, such as food or toys, from other pets and even humans. “Resource guarding in dogs can range from relatively benign behavior, like running away with a coveted item or growling at an approaching person, to full-blown aggression, such as biting or chasing a person away,” according to the ASPCA.

If you have multiple pets who guard from each other—which often happens with food—typically the best course of action is feeding them in separate spaces. If your dog guards from you, the goal is to teach them to relax and not worry so much about someone taking their valued item. (If you’re dealing with aggressive resource guarding, get the help of a professional.) For a dog guarding their food bowl, the ASPCA lays out a process that involves offering the dog treats as they eat to make them “learn that people approaching his food bowl bring even tastier food—they’re not coming to take his food away from him.” This method of trading valued items can work in most cases to get your dog to relinquish something they’re guarding. Never try to “dominate” your dog by simply snatching an item from them. This is dangerous and can make the guarding behavior worse.

3. Digging

German shorthaired pointer digs in yard

Credit: btplaczek/Getty Images

Many dogs love to dig. It’s a natural canine behavior—and consequently can be difficult to rein in. “Dogs dig for many reasons: Some simply enjoy digging; some are looking for a cool spot if it’s hot out; some like to bury things to save for later,” according to Best Friends Animal Society. They also might dig escape routes under fencing; in response to something in their environment, such as a wild animal nest; or simply because they’re bored. Even indoors, dogs instinctively dig to create a bed for themselves.

To prevent destructive digging, Best Friends says to make sure you’re meeting your dog’s physical and mental needs. When they get enough play time and socialization, they should be less inclined to dig for entertainment. But if you do have a major digger on your hands, you can try setting up a “designated digging zone,” using a sandbox or kiddie pool filled with dirt. Bury some of their toys in it to direct your dog to dig in that spot, and bring them back to the designated zone if they start digging elsewhere. You might have a dirty dog on your hands, but this method could at least save your garden.

4. Destructive chewing

Chewing is another normal canine behavior that you might need to curb before it becomes destructive. “For young dogs, it’s a way to relieve pain that might be caused by incoming teeth,” according to the ASPCA. “For older dogs, it’s nature’s way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean. Chewing also combats boredom and can relieve mild anxiety or frustration.”

First, rule out issues that can cause excessive chewing, such as separation anxiety, fabric sucking and hunger. Experts believe fabric sucking occurs in dogs who were weaned too early, and you might need a behaviorist to help combat it. Plus, a dog on an inadequate diet might chew on objects, looking for nutrients. But for normal chewing, the key is to direct it toward a variety of dog-safe objects and teach your dog what they shouldn’t chew. Dog-proof your house to remove temptations. You also can try spraying pet-safe chewing deterrents on furniture and other areas they’re prone to chewing. And simply make sure your dog is getting enough mental and physical stimulation to prevent chewing out of boredom.

5. Whining

Just like with barking, dogs whine for several reasons. It might be a greeting or attention-seeking behavior, according to the ASPCA. Or it might be for appeasement as part of a submissive posture. Plus, many dogs whine out of anxiety—especially separation anxiety—and due to pain.

For appeasement and anxious whining, the goal is to build your dog’s confidence and remove sources of anxiety. Especially if it’s a new behavior, it’s important to take them to the vet to make sure nothing is wrong medically. And seek the help of a vet or behaviorist if you’re dealing with separation anxiety. Additionally, whining as a greeting can be redirected to a toy or command. And whining or begging for food or attention should be ignored. Offer your dog no eye contact, petting or talking (even commands) until they’re quiet. Then, immediately praise good behavior, so they understand whining won’t get them anything.

6. Jumping on people

small dog jumping on little boy

Credit: VVPhoto/Getty Images

Even the friendliest dogs might jump on people to greet them or get their attention. And that can turn into a nuisance or even a danger, regardless of the dog’s size. “A dog who jumps up on people to greet them most likely does it because he gets attention for it,” Best Friends says. “Pushing the dog away and/or shouting at him often seems like part of the game to the dog. It is attention, after all.”

Instead, any time your dog jumps on you, ignore them. Turn your back, and don’t say anything. And instruct anyone else who comes in contact with your dog to do the same. (It’s all about consistency.) Along with that, teach your dog proper greetings. That often can be a simple “sit” cue when they’re approaching you or another person. Wait for that calm greeting, and reward your dog with treats and praise when it happens. Remember, even if you’re not bothered by their jumping, someday they might knock down and injure a small child, for example, and you’ll wish you curbed the behavior sooner.

7. Mouthing and nipping

Dogs begin mouthing and nipping as puppies. And if they don’t learn manners then, that behavior can spill into adulthood with much more serious consequences. First, it’s important to distinguish between playful mouthing and aggression. “Serious, aggressive bites are usually quicker and more painful than those delivered during play,” according to the ASPCA. Aggression should be managed with the help of a professional.

For playful mouthing, start by never allowing your dog to see your hands as a toy. Don’t wave your hands in their face, and go limp if they nip you, as jerking your hand away can seem playful. Say “Ow!” like a yelp if they ever put their teeth on your skin. And if they’re too worked up and continue to mouth, move away from them. Plus, for dogs who nip at heels (especially herding dogs), freeze in place until the behavior stops, and then praise them. Or try carrying a toy with you to redirect the nipping until they become desensitized to your movement.

Main image credit: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

32 comments

Peter B
Peter B4 days ago

Thank you

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Angela K
Angela K7 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Martha P
Martha P9 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Ruth S
Ruth S9 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S9 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth R
Ruth R9 days ago

Ah jumping! We currently have a particularly stubborn jumper-upper, should have called him Tigger. Just when you think you've cured him of the habit, up he goes again. Turning your back? I've tried that, he just jumps up when your back's turned, which is a lot more dangerous than doing it from the front. The only thing to do is to catch both front paws in your hands - he really hates that.

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heather g
heather g9 days ago

Good advice = except that some owners see no wrong in their dog's behaviour. Where I come from it's regarded as cruel yo cage a dog, let alone tie it up outside.

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Debbi W
Debbi W10 days ago

Good suggestions. Always have chew toys available, especially for puppies. If you have never had a dog, speak to several people about having a dog. I hate that commercial for Chewy, where the woman complains to the man on the phone that the very young puppy thinks her house is used for a potty, or something to that effect. She knows nothing about puppies and shouldn't have one.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD10 days ago

tyfs

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Sarah A
Sarah A10 days ago

thank you

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