How To Know If Your Dog Has a Behaviour Problem

Pet Health

Laura Vissaritis

When it comes to understanding dog behaviour, the most effective approach is to think from our dog’s perspective, instead of our own. Often, we expect dogs to be ‘well behaved’, however good behaviour to us may be quite different from our dog’s point of view.  

For instance, dogs who bark, are often simply communicating what is happening in front of them. Dogs who dig up the back yard, may be doing so to find a cool place to lie down it. Dogs who jump the fence, may be doing so to find a fertile mate. So, in an endless number of instances, dog behaviour from the dog’s point of view may be very natural and very normal.  

When it comes to identifying a dog behaviour problem, often this is pointed out when it bothers the owner, more than it bothers the dog. So how do you know if there is something bothering your dog, versus something that is normal dog behaviour?  

  • Is the behaviour causing your dog physical or emotional harm? 

  • Is it unnecessarily repetitive?  

  • Is it out of context? i.e. is your dog barking at an inanimate object in the home? 

  • Is your dog physically well? Or could they do with a vet visit?  

  • Is my dog experiencing distress or anxiety at the time? 

These five questions are a good start to consider if your dog has a problem behaviour. However, good questions to ask yourself also are:  

  • Is my dog responding to something that is too stimulating to them? Is my dog more settled when I change the environment? 

  • Has my dog got enough to do each day? 

  • Is my dog comfortable? Are they warm enough, not hungry, safe and well? 

  • Has my dog learnt a better alternative to the behaviour? 

  • Have I actually trained my dog what to do? Or are they unsure? 

Sometimes, we need to just sit and ask ourselves a whole bunch of questions from our dog’s point of view, to be able to understand why they do what they do. Dogs do not behave out of spite, or guilt. However, they can behave from distress and fear. So, often, removing the thing that is causing the distress can immediately solve the problem. It is also important to note that lots of dog behaviour that we do not like is important and very normal for dogs, so we may need to learn to accept that dogs are dogs. Dog behaviour is incredibly nuanced and requires careful consideration as a dog owner.  

So, if you are concerned that your dog has a behaviour problem, or if it is a completely normal part of a dog’s life, it may be best to ask yourself the questions listed above, and consult a veterinary behaviourist of qualified animal behaviourist. It’s good to get an objective insight into understanding what exactly is going on in your best friend’s head.  

Laura Vissaritis

Please note: Laura's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your veterinarian.

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