How to deal with problem behaviour

All dogs can be naughty, some worse than others. While early training can help puppies learn right from wrong, it’s important to remember that rescue dogs may not have had that important early care. For example they may not have been socialised with people and other dogs as a puppy, or they may have missed out on training. They may have been bored, over-boisterous or destructive because of insecurity and anxiety. By getting to know why your dog behaves the way they do, you can help rectify their problem behaviour.

Some of the triggers for problem behaviour are:

• Being left alone
• Car travel
• Fear and nervousness
• Boisterous and status-related behaviours
• Breed traits

Being left alone
Dogs are pack animals and enjoy company. So, when they’re denied it, some resort to destructiveness, howling or messing. This is usually down to boredom, attention seeking or insecurity and anxiety.

• If your dog gets bored, invest time in creating games and toys that keep their minds occupied, both when you’re with them and when you’re not.

• Hard as it can be, it is important to praise good behaviour and ignore bad. By responding to disruptive behaviour, like barking or whining, the dog thinks they’re getting attention. So they do it again. And again.

• There’s a fine line between overprotecting a pet dog and being supportive of an insecure dog. Spend time with the dog gently guiding them to build up their independence.

Car travel
Problems with car travel often fall into two types – anxious dogs that associate cars with separation or scary trips to the vet and over-boisterous dogs that associate cars with exciting trips out. Both can be overcome with time and patience. Use small journeys to get the dog used to the movement, sound and smell.

Fear and nervousness
When dogs are puppies, it’s important to get them used to different sounds and environments. Anything from washing machines to a car alarms, playgrounds to people in uniform – the more you can expose them too when they’re young, the less anxious they’ll be in later life. Rescue dogs may not have had that early exposure so, if they’re nervous, they’ll need a calm environment to build their confidence at their own pace.

Boisterous and status-related behaviours
Dogs will test you, particularly where they enter the adolescent period, but by being calm and consistent owner, teaching your dog the right behaviours, you can avoid any long-term problems.

Breed traits
Different breeds are prone to different behaviours. Some guard, some hunt, some herd. It is important to carry out lots of research about the breed of dog you’ve chosen to make sure you can provide correct and suitable training and socialisation.

If you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour, seek help early. Speak to your vet or contact the charity you got your dog from.

This information was provided in association with canine welfare at the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

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