Tips to Break 9 Common Bad Dog Habits

Guilty dog destroyed a teddy bear

That adorable new puppy you brought home can quickly lose its charm when it starts causing a ruckus at your house and sticking its curious nose into items it shouldn't touch. Learning how to deal with dog behavior problems is the first step in regaining control of your little guy and your house. 

To make the training process easier, you need to realize many seemingly abnormal dog behavior traits are common dog behavior problems that most owners face.

Learning the basics and teaching them to your pup will help curb naughty and undesired behaviors.

9 Common Dog Behavior Problems 

The nine most common dog behavior problems are excessive chewing, barking and howling, begging, whining, separation anxiety, jumping, biting, digging, and aggression. 

Keep reading to learn more about the nine most common dog behavior problems, why your dog showcases these bad habits and which tips and basic dog commands can help you avoid them. 

1. Destructive Chewing

Chewing is not always a bad thing. After all, your puppy chews objects to relieve pain as its teeth develop, while your senior dog regularly gnaws items to keep its jaw active. 

However, excessive and destructive chewing typically means bad news for your favorite shoes and furniture. If your dog is chewing the wrong items, this can also lead to your pooch choking or digesting materials that may be harmful to their intestines and body. 

So, what are some of the less practical reasons dogs excessively chew? Dogs chew for a variety of purposes, including hunger, boredom, curiosity, and separation anxiety.

In addition, you may notice your dog excessively chewing when they are uncomfortable or stressed in social situations. This can stem from triggers like visiting an unfamiliar area and being around other pets or handsy children.

Ultimately, chewing provides your pup with a distraction when they are not adequately stimulated mentally or physically. Here are 7 steps dog parents should take to manage inappropriate chewing. 

  • Designate chew toys and bones for healthy chewing.
  • Avoid tossing old shoes or pillows to your pup, so they don't get confused on which household items are off-limits and what they are allowed to chew up.
  • Stash your items out of your dog's reach. When you are not home, keep your pup in a crate or area closed by a door or baby gate so they cannot find personal items.
  • If your pooch chews something they shouldn't, give them a firm verbal command and replace the object with an approved chew toy or bone. Praise your dog for chewing the correct object.
  • Stay on a regular food schedule, so your dog doesn't chew from hunger.
  • Make sure your dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation with plenty of walks, trips to the park and games with you or other dogs.
  • If chewing persists, try spraying chewing deterrents on your personal belongings or furniture to prompt your pup to move on to approved objects. 

2. Barking / Howling 

Beagle Howling

Like chewing, barking is a common problem that all dog owners face at some point. While barking to alert danger makes your pup the perfect watchdog, barking for less critical reasons can quickly become irritating to you and your neighbors.

Dogs also love to bark to show dominance when other dogs are around and to convey their excitement and eagerness to play or please. Also, they may bark to get your attention or to combat boredom and anxiety. 

Overall, barking is your dog's way of responding to its changing environment and keeping you aware of potentially dangerous situations. 

On the other hand, some dogs take it a step further by howling instead of simply barking. Howling is a behavior that stems from a dog's genetic connection to wolves and is used to communicate. However, howling can also be used to convey pain and maybe a signal that your pup is hurt or sick. Here's a few tips to remember while dealing with your dog's barking. 

  • Identify the trigger causing your dog to bark. When this sound or action occurs, teach your dog to chase a toy instead of barking or howling.
  • Use "speak" and "quiet" commands to train your dog to bark on command and respect quiet times. 
  • Distract your pup with soft treats when you know they are going to be around a trigger.
  • Keep noisy pups inside most of the time. When you do go outside, supervise your dog, so they don't feel alone or anxious and start barking.
  • Use a crate to block your pup's view when windows in the house or car become extra distracting and bark- inducing.
  • Teach your pooch where "their spot" is in the house. Train them to return to that spot and patiently wait when guests arrive instead of barking at the door.
  • Slowly expose your pup to low-intensity versions of their triggers so they can work through their anxieties and respond more calmly in the future.

Related: Do Corgis Bark a Lot

3. Begging

The first few times your pup bats their adorable big eyes at you, it may be hard to say no. However, indulging your dog's begging at mealtimes will lead to big problems. 

Not only can over-eating cause issues like canine obesity, but many foods okay for human consumption are not good for our furry friends and can harm their health.

Even if you set mealtime boundaries and maintain a regular food schedule for your pup, they may still yearn over what's on your plate. This may have you questioning, why do dogs beg for food when they already have their own? 

Tempting smells wafting from the kitchen is enough to get your pup's mouth-watering. Their innate scavenger skills and curiosity make your food irresistible. Read the following recommendations to prevent your dog from begging at the kitchen table. 

  • Never feed your dog scraps from the table, which encourages begging. Instead, administer treats in their food zone to maintain a distinction between your space and theirs.
  • Designate a resting and sleeping space for your pup. Give them commands to "lay down" and "stay" in their designated space during mealtimes.
  • Put your dog in another room, confined area, or crate while you are eating so they can't watch you.
  • Give your dog a treat after you eat to make them feel included and praise them for staying in their spot during your meal. Remember to feed them in their designated food zone, not from the table.
  • Feed your pup before you eat so they are less hungry for your food.
  • Keep your pooch occupied with a toy while you eat, so they stay distracted and forget about your food.

4. Whining 

Next, whining is often a sign that your pup is feeling anxious or excited. New people and pets can make your puppy whine excitedly as it explores. On the other hand, many dogs don't like being left alone or engaging in unfamiliar situations, so they whine in protest.

Whining is often your dog's defense mechanism to appease things they perceive as threats like other dogs or people, usually accompanied by a tucked tail, retracted ears, and dodgy eye contact. Typically, when dogs try to avoid confrontation and instead start to whine, they are anxious and lacking confidence.

Finally, whining could be your puppy's way of telling you it needs to relieve itself. Young puppies and small dogs need to relieve themselves more frequently and need more constant supervision.

The tips below will help you figure out how to stop a dog from whining at night, how to stop a dog from crying when you leave, and other general ways to quiet your noisy pooch. Take a look at 6 effective techniques to help stop your dog from fussing. 

  • Keep to a consistent routine. The more your dog can rely on the same method, the more likely it is to feel comfortable in its daily activities.
  • Raise your dog's confidence with obedience training, where they can socialize with other people and pups and get rewarded for learning skills.
  • Engage in a physical activity before your pup's bedtime to tire them out.
  • Don't make a big deal out of leaving the house by saying goodbye to your dog. Similarly, don't act too excited when coming back home. By staying calm, you keep your dog calm while they're alone.
  • Leave the TV or radio on for your dog while you're gone to simulate people talking in your home.
  • Provide your pup with a food puzzle toy that will keep them occupied when new guests arrive or when you have to leave your pooch unattended while at work. 

5. Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety occurs when your dog can't properly cope with being left alone, which often leads to it nervously or aggressively acting out while you're away.

Anxious pups separated from their owners often have accidents, destroy personal belongings, and vocalize (bark & howl) to express their fear.

More dangerously, separation anxiety can make your pup feel like it needs to escape, which often ends badly, leading to injury or property damage.

Dachshund dog stands on the floor sad

How do you stop separation anxiety in dogs? Learning how to calm an anxious dog relies on consistency and creativity. Read the tips below to find out why your dog's daily routine is essential for treating anxiety. 

  • Leave and come back quickly at first to prove to your dog that leaving the house doesn't mean going forever. Start with a 10-minute trip and increase the time increments as your dog gains comfort.
  • Don't make a big deal about leaving and returning to your home. Calmly tell your dog goodbye and leave. When you come back, softly say hello to your pup and then don't give them any more attention until they settle down.
  • Try out dog separation anxiety toys. Only presenting your puppy with a food toy while you're away will help them associate being alone with a fun task.
  • Use a crate that may provide your dog with a sense of protection and personal space while keeping your pup away from your personal belongings.
  • Arrange for someone to check on your pup while you're out. A trusted friend or dog walker will let your pooch know someone is still there to attend to their needs.
  • If the other tips aren't making much of a difference for your pup, consulting your vet can provide therapy options or dog separation anxiety medication to calm its nerves. 

6. Jumping

Learning how to stop a dog from jumping on people is often a concern for dog owners. While you may like it when your dog excitedly shows some extra love, a jumping pup can also scare strangers and accidentally dirty or tear clothes or belongings.

In addition to jumping on people, puppies often have issues with jumping on off-limits furniture as they get acquainted with your home. Many owners struggle to keep their pup off the couch and stop their dog from jumping on the counter. 

Often to the embarrassment of their owners, dogs also commonly have a problem with humping. So, if you've asked yourself why do puppies hump stuffed animals or why does my dog hump me and no one else, know you aren't alone. Dogs hump both for sexual practice and to seek attention or calm anxiety. 

Dogs typically jump on people to show affection. They get this trait from their instincts to jump and lovingly greet their mothers. However, if their jumping is on the wrong people or at the wrong time, try the following tips to keep your pup grounded. 

  • Walk away from your dog if they start to jump on you. Indulging them even by pushing them away will encourage your pup to keep trying. The best thing to do is ignore them until they calm down.
  • Give commands like "sit" and "wait" to prompt your pup to stay calm instead of jumping to gain attention.
  • Put kitchen and dining room items away, so your dog is less inclined to climb on the counters to explore or scavenge leftovers.
  • Make sure your pup has a designated sleeping and rest area. Keep their dog bed in close quarters to the couch, so they have their spot while hanging out with the family.
  • Get male dogs neutered to reduce sexual excitement and humping.
  • When you catch your pup mounting a person or object, tell them "no" in an assertive voice. If the behavior persists, put them in a room alone for a few minutes to calm down. 

7. Biting

Chihuahua Biting persons hand

Biting is often the most concerning of the dog behavior problems on the list because it can inflict injury and in severe cases, even death. However, dogs shouldn't be feared outright. More commonly, dogs nip at their owners or strangers for practical reasons or attention, not intending to cause harm.

Some breeds have farming in their genes. Their ancestors nipped at the ankles of cattle to keep them in line for their farmer-owners. Instinctively, these types of dogs will nip at the ankles of small children to try to herd them into line for their owners, unintentionally hurting them. 

You may ask why does my dog bite me when excited and what to do with a dog that bites? Your dog likely is just trying to get your attention and knows a quick snap of its teeth will steal your focus. Similarly, they may be trying to play and not understand that their bites can break the skin.

That's why it's important to reinforce that the proper way to get your attention is through calm, patient behaviors. Keep reading the following tips for more methods to reduce biting behaviors.  

  • Distinguish whether your dog's biting is intuitive, playful, or fearful and aggressive to help you address the source of the issue.
  • Socialize your dog with obedience training classes to teach it that biting is not an effective way to communicate and to lessen social fear responses.
  • Introduce your dog to different environments to help proof calm behaviors and reduce biting strangers.
  • Keep herding breeds away from small children to avoid nips at the ankle. While you can discourage biting behaviors, instincts may still trump training.
  • If your dog bites you hard while playing, make a sound, so they know it hurts to imitate the behavior dogs do while playing with each other. If one dog bites too hard, the other will let out a yelp to say be more gentle.
  • Give your dog a toy or bone if they try to chew at your fingers while you're petting them. 

8. Digging

Digging is something your pup does to explore the world around them, though this can be bad news for your budding garden outside. 

To stop your dog from digging holes, it's first important to understand why they do it. For dogs with hunting in their genes, digging is a way of fulfilling their instincts. 

Dogs also like to dig because it helps them cool off, keeps them active when they're bored, and it provides the perfect place to hide their invaluable chew toys or bones.

Finally, digging can also signal issues in your dog's diet. If your dog feels they aren't getting the proper nutrients, they may dig in the soil in an attempt to ingest more minerals. 

Check out these 7 tips to help you prevent your pooch from digging up your backyard. 

  • Give your dog their spot to dig. Just like children like to play in the sand, your digging-obsessed dog would love to play in their sandbox.  
  • Make sure to give your pup quality attention and play, so they don't resort to digging from boredom.
  • When it comes to how to stop your dog from digging under the fence, eliminate their escape route. Place large rocks or chicken wire near the fence, so they avoid the area.
  • Keep your dog supervised when you are outside, so they have less opportunity to dig in garden areas they are not allowed.
  • Stay consistent with your dog's food schedule, so they don't dig in search of vitamins.
  • Make sure your dog doesn't need to dig to cool down. Check the levels in their water bowl and bring them indoors if the weather gets too hot.
  • Fill gopher and snake holes so your dog won't be tempted to dig and hunt in the yard.

9. Aggression

Similar to biting, aggression is one of the dog behavior problems you hope not to experience. After all, most owners bring home man's best friend in hopes of having a lovable companion, not an aggressive dog. However, it is also one of the most common behavior problems and needs to be better understood.

Aggression refers to behaviors like growling, baring teeth, snarling, lurching forward, and nipping or biting. Often dogs perceive strangers as a threat and act aggressively in an attempt to protect their owners. 

Dogs may also act aggressively because of a medical condition. Certain illnesses and injuries cause discomfort and alter brain functions, which can make a typically docile dog act aggressively. 

While breed often gets blamed for a dog's aggressive nature, the environment frequently plays an even more significant role. If you're wondering how to calm an aggressive dog, it's essential to understand their background and if they came from an abusive home so you can best tailor training.

In short, here are  6 tips to help you manage your pups aggression. 

  • Work with a private trainer or behaviorist to better understand your dog's unique situation and why they are exhibiting aggressive behavior.
  • Don't yell or physically punish your dog because it can make them more fearful and aggressive.
  • Supervise your dog when you are around strangers, family members, and small children to avoid accidents and injuries.
  • Slowly expose your pup to low-intensity versions of their triggers to desensitize them and reduce aggressive responses.
  • Keep your dog on a leash during walks or while playing at the park if they act aggressively around other dogs or people.
  • Establish yourself as the pack leader so your dog will reduce aggressive behaviors as a sign of respect. 

Final Thoughts 

While dog behavior problems may be annoying to deal with at first, staying consistent with training will eventually help create better habits.

It's best to stay patient during the process. Avoid spanking and other forms of physical punishment that can cause long-term fear and aggression in your pup. Instead, use a positive reward system to reinforce good behaviors and habits. 

Socialization and obedience training to learn basic dog commands help reduce dog behavior problems. When attending classes, remember to vaccinate your pup beforehand and only engage in play dates with other vaccinated dogs to keep your dog healthy and safe.

All in all, it is possible to teach a puppy or old dog new tricks, if you stay patient during the process. 

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