Puppy Behavior - Lose the Confusion

You will likely be stumped by a puppy behavior or dog behavior question at some point in your pooch's life.  This is true whether you're the owner of the dog in question, or the neighbor! 

These problems will range from something as harmless as a goofy "quirk" like licking the air when you scratch his back to something as dangerous as aggression.

Most (if not all) dog behaviors have a solution... the trick is finding it!  And that's exactly what we hope to help you with.  Find the underlying cause to the behavior, and PRESTO!  You're half way there to fixing the problem.

Many dogs wind up at the SPCA or in the classified ads because of an owner who, at their wit's end, doesn't know what else to do with him. It really does take serious commitment to have a dog as well as time invested in turning him into the "perfect" pooch you've always wanted.

puppy behaviorPhoto courtesy of Montecruz Foto via Flikr.

Let me just say that often, you are the problem. Gasp!  That's right - I just heard your jaw hit the computer desk. You're probably thinking... the nerve!  How in the world can she say that?

Don't get me wrong. You love your dog to bits, and would never do anything like that. But let me ask you - have you ever petted your dog when he put his paws on you at the front door to say hello? Well, you've inadvertently praised him for jumping!

While you don't mean to teach him improper behaviors, it happens frequently. And I really can't blame you for this. As a dog owner, you simply didn't know. Ahhh... but now the blindfold comes off, because our goal is to demystify dog behavior questions.

Common Puppy Behavior and Dog Behavior Problems

A few puppy behaviors that tend to leave owners puzzled are:

  • Nuisance barking - the dog is bored, either inside or outside, or simply wants attention.
  • Eating grass
  • Eating poop (whether it's his own, another dog's, or the cat's!)
  • Digging - whether you have a Houdini on your hands or your dog just seems to take great pleasure in turning up the new sod in your yard, digging can be a very annoying behavior!
  • Stealing objects - some dogs like stealing shoes, while others enjoy having you chase them through the house after your underwear. My dog, Justice, used to prefer finding Kleenex's in the garbage.
  • Taking treats roughly
  • Chewing inappropriate objects - shoes, purses, pens, kid's toys, clothing, couches, drywall, you name it. Yes, I have seriously heard of people's dogs eating the leather couch!
  • Mouthing and nipping your hands or clothing - while this might start out as just a little annoying, it can quickly get too rough or even escalate into a bite.
  • Peeing or pooping in the house - pee pads?  Tell me you're kidding... let me show you the real way to house train your dog!
  • Jumping on you or your guests - find how you are likely the one who is inadvertently teaching your dog to jump.

And of course, there are the more dangerous behavior problems such as:

  • Food and/or toy aggression - being possessive of what the dog thinks are "his". Problems usually arise during feeding time or when playing.
  • Dog aggression
  • People aggression
  • Chasing cars, bikes, or roller-blades

Keep in mind - when faced with an aggression issue, you should always seek the advice and hands-on help of a certified professional in your area.  We can't solve aggression online for you.  You will need to hire a professional for one-on-one work with you and your dog.

#1 Solution to Most Puppy Behavior Problems...

Honestly, many of the above behavioral challenges can be dealt with by increasing the exercise your dog gets. I always say, a tired dog is a happy dog. He's also a good dog!

When a dog doesn't get sufficient mental and physical stimulation, the energy builds up and needs to be released somehow. Ergo, chewing... or barking... or digging. These "bad" behaviors are self-rewarding in nature, as the pup will feel more relaxed as he burns off that pent up energy.

So then the obvious solutions is exercise! And if you have a dog that has high energy needs and you're struggling to give him enough? Try one of these in addition to his regular walks:

  1. Treadmill training - dogs can be trained to use a doggy treadmill, which is a life-saver for owners with dogs that can go, go, go!

  2. Fetch - most dogs don't automatically know how to play fetch. Sure, he may instinctively know to chase after a ball that is thrown (this is their "prey drive"), but to get him to bring it back, every time? That takes some training. Click here to learn how to teach your dog to fetch.

These lists aren't all-inclusive, so if you have a dog or puppy behavior question that isn't covered here, take a look at what other people have said in our dog behavior FAQ page

Maybe your dog drives the neighbors nuts with his incessant barking, or is trying to re-create the Grand Canyon in your backyard.  Perhaps he prefers baseboards and furniture to chew toys.  Anyone every heard of Marley?  You get the idea...