In most cases, behavior problems are really communication problems. When you stop to think about it, it's amazing humans and dogs can live together at all. Besides being totally different animals, we also see, hear, smell, taste, and feel the world very differently -- and process it all through a very different brain.
Back when all dogs were wild, actions like chewing, scent-marking, and barking weren't an issue. Now that dogs are a regular part of human families, these natural behaviors can become problem behaviors. That means we have to shape a dog's natural behavior so it fits in with polite society -- what we might call teaching a dog good manners.
Dogs can be aggressive for myriad reasons, ranging from furious anger to loving playfulness. Defensiveness, territorial protection, pain, even reproductive urges -- these all can cause aggressive behavior. It behooves every dog owner to know the difference, for everyone's safety and benefit. It cannot take much to push an aggressive dog to the point where he is biting or attacking a family member or neighbor. There are, however, strategies to make your dog friendly and sociable. Learn how.
Dog's mouths are analogous to human hands -- they are dogs' way of interacting with the word and analyzing it. Dogs bite for many reasons, including anger and self-defense and love and playfulness. These reasons are easy to confuse because in the end they all have the same result. For whatever reason your dog has a tendency to bite, there are solutions to keep your dog from biting people or other dogs.
Dogs have a deep urge to chase quickly moving things, and so when your dog gives chase to a Chevy, it makes a lot more sense to him than it might to you. In fact, the site of any object passing by your dog at a high speed can make your dog want to take off after it. Such a dog can confuse or frighten a driver, and put himself in danger. You can break you dog of this habit with a little patience. In this section you will find some tips on curbing your dog's car-chasing urge.
Young dogs are especially prone to chewing because - just like newborns - it can be painful when their teeth grow in. But even grown dogs will chew inappropriately if distressed or bored. In some cases, chewing can even be good for your dog and keep his teeth clean. You can train your dog to know the difference between good chewing and bad chewing. Learn how to keep your dog focused on the chew toy and not your new sneakers.
It might not be pleasant to talk about, and it certainly seems repulsive to us, but many dogs eat their own feces or the feces of other animals. Coprophagy is the medical name for this unpleasant canine habit that is more common among younger dogs. If an older dog eats its own stool it could be a sign or a more significant problem. There are ways to get your dog to break this natural inclination. In this section we discuss ways to remove the temptation from your dog.
Dogs like to dig, and in fact some breeds have been bred to do just that. In most cases it's harmless, but it can be very destructive to your yard -- or your neighbor's. It can also be messy when you're dog spends an hour exploring the mud in your garden and then comes bounding into the living room. Let's also not forget that your dog can just as easily burrow into your carpet as your yard. If you'd had it with your dog's excavations, in this section we discuss ways to curb your dog's urge to dig.
Dogs are very territorial, and very tuned into the hierarchy of a group. Dominance is very important in canine society. In fact, most of the behavior problems you have with your dog may stem from the way your dog perceives the power structure with you. If your dog believes he is the "top dog" or "alpha male" in your house, he might try to assert his dominance over you. For this reason, they can be motivated to fight, and when dogs fight, it can be quite frightening and dangerous for all involved. Here we explain the fight-impulse and how you can curb it or prevent it from coming into play.
If you walk by your dog when he is eating his dinner and he gives you a nasty growl, he's not just being rude. Dogs guard their food by nature, but sometimes this behavior can become almost compulsive. Not only can this behavior lead the occasional swipe at your fingers, it is also important to be able to get something out of dogs mouth if it is toxic. In addition to food, dogs can also be protective of their favorite possessions. Here we discuss the problem, and ways to solve it -- some that involve a change in the dog-owner's behavior.
When a pooch races across the room and jumps up to your shoulders, it's not always a sign of love and affection -- and regardless, it's often inconvenient, uncomfortable or downright frightening. While some owners like to be greeted by their dog so enthusiastically, your dog might give the same salutation to other, more inappropriate guests. Pizza delivery people, relatives who are afraid of dogs, or young children might be put off by an aggressive dog. You can curb this behavior and even train your dog to jump on command. You will learn how in this section.
It's natural for a dog to mark territory, but they can take it too far, especially if they're under stress. With help from you in regulating their world and teaching them appropriate behavior, a dog can be trained to mark territory only where appropriate. As with guarding their food, marking territory is behavior that is ingrained in all dogs. While you can't train to teach your dog to sit at the table with a knife and fork, you can teach him to control this habit. This section will give you the advice you need.
Dogs are genetically encoded to pull on a leash, stemming from their historical use as pullers of sleds and packs. Some dogs, however, take this behavior too far by straining against the leash so hard that it interferes with their breathing. It might not be possible to break your pet of this habit entirely, but that's not to say you can't train your pooch to keep this aggressive behavior to a minimum. Depending on your breed of dog, this section offers a variety of solutions for this problem.
An aggressive dog isn't necessarily an angry or violent dog. Move on to the next section to learn how to handle this problem.