The Most Annoying Dog Behaviors and How You Can Fix Them
Dogs make great pets. But sometimes, they can be a handful. Dogs develop all kind of obnoxious habits, and frustrated owners often don’t know how to train them to stop. Of course, people who can’t tolerate a little bit of noise or the occasional mess probably shouldn’t own a dog. But if your dog barks all the time, chews on your expensive furniture, pulls on the leash, or jumps up on visitors, we have some good news for you. You can help your dog break the habit and change his behavior.
With a little bit of help from some expert dog trainers, you’ll be well on your way toward correcting some of the most obnoxious dog behaviors.
One of the most common problems for dog owners? A pup who won’t stop barking. All dogs bark. But sometimes, dogs develop bad habits that irritate everybody around them. Some bark when a new person or animal comes into their territory. Sometimes, dogs bark when they’re startled. And many dogs bark when they feel bored or lonely. Fortunately, you can correct the problem. The ASPCA notes you’ll just need to figure out why your dog is barking to address the problem.
The Humane Society of the United States advises you should avoid yelling at your dog. Instead, remove the motivation for his behavior, ignore the barking, and desensitize your dog to whatever caused him to bark. Additionally, you can teach your dog the “quiet” command, or ask him to do something that’s incompatible with barking. The American Kennel Club recommends praising your dog when she’s calm and not barking.
2. Jumping up on people
Many dogs jump on people when they walk in the door. Most of the time, they’re just excited to see you. (Despite what some trainers might say, not every dog jumps on you because he thinks he’s in charge. You don’t have to interpret everything your dog does as an expression of dominance.) WebMD notes when dogs meet, they sniff each other’s faces. So naturally, dogs want to jump up to try to reach our faces and get our attention.
The first step to getting your dog to stop jumping on you or other people? Only give the dog attention when her front feet remain on the floor. That means you should immediately give your dog attention when her feet land on the floor.
The Humane Society reports the idea is to teach your dog he doesn’t get attention if he jumps up on you or anyone else. You can teach your dog to do something incompatible with jumping, such as sitting, when you walk in the door. With some persistence, you can train your dog not to jump, no matter who’s opening the door.
3. Chasing cars and pedestrians
Puppies — and energetic dogs with a high prey drive or herding instinct — naturally chase cars, pedestrians, animals, and other kinds of moving objects. But that can get a curious dog into a lot of trouble. That’s especially true if your dog is chasing a car, running after a child, or even sprinting after your cat. Fortunately, as The Spruce notes, you can get this behavior under control, which is an important step both for your dog’s safety and your sanity.
To teach your dog not to chase, you first need to train him to walk well on the leash and to sit and stay on command. Then, you can slowly expose your dog to situations that prompt chasing to reinforce the concept that he should chase after a car, a cyclist, or even the mailman.
The Spruce notes, “It’s impossible to totally eliminate the chasing behavior, but it can be redirected.” VetStreet reports with some persistence, you can redirect the behavior, even when you’re out on a walk. And the AKC has some useful advice if you’re trying to help a dog and cat co-exist peacefully.
4. Chewing on your furniture
Puppies chew as part of the teething process. But no dog owner wants their pup chewing on furniture, books, shoes, or whatever else the dog can find around the house. You can help your dog break the habit, especially if you follow the AKC’s advice and dog-proof your home. When you can’t supervise your dog, put him in his crate or in a dog-proofed room. Spray your furniture with a commercial chew deterrent. And make sure your dog has plenty of novel and enticing chew toys.
The ASPCA recommends ruling out bigger problems that can cause destructive chewing, such as separation anxiety, compulsive fabric sucking, or hunger. From there, realize puppy teething, as well as chewing in older dogs, is normal behavior. You need to provide the right things for your dog to chew. But the Humane Society reports you also need to actively teach him what’s OK to chew and what isn’t.
5. Exhibiting separation anxiety
Just like a toddler, your dog can exhibit separation anxiety when you leave the house. Many dogs bark excessively when they’re left at home alone. But sometimes, they engage in other undesirable behaviors. They might pace the house, destroy objects in your home, or have “accidents” indoors. The AKC reports you should try to prevent separation anxiety before it starts, preferably when your dog is still a puppy.
First, recognize separation anxiety results from stress, and plagues your dog not only when you leave, but until the moment you return home. To prevent or address separation anxiety, you should make crate training a part of your dog’s routine. Condition him to get used to your absence. Help him get plenty of exercise. And always leave calmly, without a drawn-out goodbye. The ASPCA recommends ruling out medical problems and other behavioral issues. And the Humane Society advises taking note of the things that won’t work, such as punishment or adopting another dog.
6. Begging for food
Many dogs always act hungry. And most of the time, dogs just try to get you to give them more food, even when they don’t need it. But you have a bigger problem on your hands if your dog has learned to beg at the table. WebMD recommends you nip the problem in the bud by limiting your dog’s access to the table. And you can teach your dog to do something — anything — other than begging while you eat. For instance, you can train her to lie down on her bed or mat.
The Spruce advises if your dog does beg, you should never reward the behavior. Don’t give in and share what’s on your plate. If you do, you teach your dog that begging works. You can train your dog with a place command and have him head to the designated spot whenever you eat a meal. Additionally, you can give your dog a puzzle toy or a special treat to keep him occupied at mealtimes. Alternatively, you can feed your dog at the same time you eat to teach him he needs to eat his own food instead of begging for yours.
7. Pulling on the leash
When you walk your dog, you might feel like he’s walking you. Some dogs have a talent for turning what you thought would be a leisurely stroll into a harried walk around the neighborhood. But you don’t have to resign yourself to this behavior. PetMD recommends several steps to improve your dog’s behavior while walking on the leash. One of the most important? Realize you need to reward your dog for paying attention to you and staying beside you when you walk.
Once your dog realizes walking next to you is a rewarding experience, he’ll spend less time pulling on the leash and more time walking beside you. You can train your dog to stay attentive and follow your cues while on the leash (especially if you practice regularly and reward often). Modern Dog recommends you also think critically about what you’re doing before the walk. Don’t create a pre-walk pattern of excitement that lends itself to a frantic and chaotic walk. And whatever you do, don’t pull back on the leash.
8. Digging up your garden
Allowing your dog to spend time outside is a great way to keep him entertained and let him use up some of his boundless energy. But some dogs end up sabotaging your landscaping and digging up your garden when they spend time outdoors. The AKC reports though dogs’ motivations vary, some dogs dig to go after prey. Others want to stay cool or bury treasures. And still others are bored and just want something to do.
The AKC notes digging can provide a great outlet for your dog’s energy. So if you have a suitable spot in your yard, redirect him to the right digging area. If you don’t want your dog digging at all, your best bet is close supervision and good management of your dog’s behavior. The Humane Society advises dog owners to identify the reason why their dogs are digging and then to respond accordingly with modifications to your yard and your dog’s routine.
9. Barging through doors
When you get home from your walk, does your dog have to be the first one in the house? Does he barge through the door at a friend’s house, or climb over people to be the first one out of the car? Or does he just about knock you over trying to get out the door when you open it for him? Fortunately, you can stop any or all of those behaviors with some good training.
VetStreet reports many dogs treat a door like an escape hatch. Dogs bolt out the door for various reasons. And they find various rewards for doing so. But you can curb the behavior by teaching your dog to wait at any access point, whether a cage door, a car door, or the front door of your home. You can use smart containment strategies during training, too. Thriving Canine recommends practicing the “wait” command consistently, at every door your dog encounters. You can also practice “sit” and “stay” at the door to reinforce the correct behavior.
10. House soiling
One of the most frustrating behavior problems, whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, is coming home to find your dog has urinated or defecated in the house. The AKC notes the first thing to do — especially with an older, housebroken dog — is to rule out any medical issues. (Sometimes, it’s not a behavioral issue.) House-trained dogs prefer to eliminate anywhere other than inside their home, so consult with your veterinarian if you suspect something is wrong.
The ASPCA notes house soiling can indicate cognitive dysfunction, as well as medical problems in an older dog. Once the medical problems are treated, you’ll need to re-establish proper house training with the same methods you used when he was a puppy.
And if your dog isn’t advanced in years or if medical problems aren’t to blame, you’ll also need to give your dog additional training to stop the behavior. Teach your dog to eliminate in the right place at the right time by taking him outside and praising him when he eliminates outside.
When they play, many dogs mouth (which means grabbing at people using their mouths, gently enough that they don’t cause injury). Neither one is a desirable behavior in a puppy or an adult dog. The Animal Humane Society reports mouthing can happen during play, exercise, or anytime a dog gets too excited. You can teach a puppy to be gentle with his mouth by withdrawing attention if he gets mouthy. And you can use consequences to teach the behavior you want instead of reinforcing the behavior that you don’t want.
The ASPCA reports it’s important to note the difference between biting, which is an aggressive behavior, and normal mouthing. You should consult a professional if you think your dog exhibits aggressive behavior. Otherwise, you can teach your dog not to bite hard by yelping and letting your hand go limp. That will startle the dog and teach him to stop mouthing. You can also use time-outs to curb the behavior in an adolescent or young adult dog. After you teach him to be gentle, you can progress to training him not to use his mouth on people at all.
Many dog owners have experienced the embarrassment of seeing their dog hump a person’s leg, another dog, or even a piece of furniture. But most don’t know why it happens. The ASPCA reports mounting, thrusting (humping), and masturbation are normal behaviors not only for intact male dogs, but for both altered and intact dogs of both sexes. Sexual behaviors even form a normal part of play behaviors and can be a response to stress or excitement.
If the behavior seems excessive, you can distract your dog before he starts mounting or masturbating. The ASPCA recommends neutering a male dog or spaying a female dog. (The procedures not only reduce sexual motivation, but also prevent the birth of puppies and serious medical problems.)
You can use the “leave it” command to get your dog to stop mounting other dogs. Discourage him from mounting you or other people by pushing him off and giving him a time-out. You can also use his knowledge of the “sit” command to stop him when he starts to mount.
13. Showing aggression toward dogs
Even dogs who are relatively friendly can sometimes show aggression toward other dogs. PetMD reports it’s considered normal for a dog to be aggressive either toward dogs in the same household or toward unfamiliar dogs. Inter-dog aggression occurs much more frequently in unneutered males than in other dogs, and it usually starts to show up when a dog reaches 6 to 9 months old or by the time he reaches 18 to 36 months.
Before a serious incident of inter-dog aggression in the same household occurs, you’ll usually see more discreet signs of social control. Some dogs become of aggressive due to past experiences, fear, a desire to protect territory or social status, or even a painful medical condition. Your vet can’t officially diagnose aggression. But she can look for an underlying medical cause. Vets can also help you figure out how to control the problem. You should avoid situations that encourage aggression and break up fights quickly and safely when they do occur.
14. Showing aggression toward people
The ASPCA reports aggression is both the most common and the most serious behavior problem in dogs. A dog who shows aggression toward people exhibits at least part of a sequence of increasingly intense behaviors. If your dog has been aggressive to people in the past, the ASPCA recommends you evaluate the situations that have upset him. Your dog might show different kinds of aggression: territorial, protective, possessive, fear, defensive, social, frustration-elicited, redirected, pain-elicited, sex-related, or predatory aggression.
Figuring out exactly what kind of aggression you’re dealing with can inform the way you handle the situation. If you’re trying to decide whether to live with and treat an aggressive dog, the ASPCA recommends you consider the dog’s size, age, and bite history. You should also think about the severity of the aggressive behavior. Think about the predictability of her behavior and the targets of her aggression. Similarly, consider the triggers of your dog’s behavior and the ease of motivating the dog.
15. Ignoring your commands
Many dog owners get frustrated when their dog ignores their commands and doesn’t run over to them when called. But fortunately, you can correct the problem. Dogtime reports if a dog doesn’t come when called, their behavior can be characterized as either passive or active. With passive behavior, the dog isn’t doing anything else when he refuses to obey the command. With active disobedience, the dog decides to do something else instead of obeying your command.
If your dog understands what you want it do but doesn’t see the relevance of your request, you need to give the dog a reason to come to you. Dogs often refuse to come because they know you’ll eventually approach them instead. Other dogs run off when you call them because they think play and training are mutually exclusive. In either case, you need to switch up your training method to get your dog invested in obeying you.