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Dog Behaviour Problems

Dog Behaviour Problems

Puppies learn quickly but this can also mean they develop problems very early on. As an experienced dog trainer, I can help you and your dog overcome some common problems...

Problem Behaviours That Start In Puppyhood

Puppies learn quickly but this can also mean they develop problems very early on. As an experienced dog trainer, I can help you and your dog overcome some common problems...

Separation anxiety:

Separation anxiety can manifest itself in a number of problem behaviours. Dogs can chew inappropriate items, pace, scratch at doors and carpets, bark, howl and lose bladder or bowel control. Dogs are sociable animals and it is not natural for them to be isolated from others.

The best way to avoid this is to get puppies used to being alone as soon as they arrive home with you. This can be very stressful for a small puppy that has just left the comfort of it's Dam and litter mates so introduce the idea slowly and gently.

Ensure that the puppy has an enclosed space appropriate to it's size. Make the area comfortable and warm with articles that smell comforting to them (initially this can be something from their dam and litter mates and later something of yours).
Leave the area. Do this initially for very short periods of time and return before the puppy becomes distressed. Build up the time gradually.
Ensure that puppy does not follow you everywhere around the home. Have some ‘no go’ areas that he only enters with your permission.

The nervous dog:

Some dogs will naturally be more prone to nervousness than others. This can be dictated by breed characteristics, genetics and the dogs’ innate personality.

However, most nervousness can be overcome by good early socialisation. Owners should choose a breeder carefully to ensure that they are getting a good quality well socialised puppy. The owner must then continue with intensive socialisation between 8 and 16 weeks (1st fear period) and then after.

Excessive barking:

Dogs bark if they are anxious, excited, bored and seeking attention, or in response to other dogs.

Barking is natural for a dog and only becomes a problem when it is excessive and causes problems with neighbours or owners. It is also a problem for the dog if it's a way of indicating that their natural needs are not being met.

You can prevent excessive barking developing during puppyhood by:

  • Ensuring that their physical and mental needs are met.
  • Not encouraging puppy to bark (they do this naturally and don’t need extra encouragement)
  • Don’t allow them to run free into the garden barking (release them out in a calm controlled manner and accompany them out if necessary).
  • Teach them the command ‘Quiet’
  • Teach them to speak (bark) on command.
  • Barking can also be more prevalent in some breeds (Spitz, GSD etc.)

Car sickness:

Car sickness can begin in puppyhood with motion sickness. Puppies should be introduced to car travel to prevent this as follows:

  • Start as soon as you bring them home
  • Check if the breeder has introduced any car travel. High quality breeders will sometimes start this from 4 weeks
  • Ensure that they haven’t eaten for a least 3 hours before the journey
  • Ensure that they are toileted just before to ensure their bladder and bowels are empty
  • Put them in a warm comfortable enclosed area with a soft blanket
  • Start with VERY short 2/3 minute journeys and build up the time
  • You can also feed/treat a puppy in the back of a stationary car to ensure that he views it positively.


Snapping and/or growling when parts of the body are touched:

Humans are primates and we like to touch, hold and hug. Dogs rarely do this to each other and need to be taught to tolerate and enjoy it when humans do it to them.

Puppies need to be taught early on that they must tolerate being restrained and touched on their bodies and in their mouths by humans. This is necessary for them to be safe domestic pets but also in the event that they need a medical examination or for grooming.

Good quality breeders should have started this process from a very early age. The owner needs to make sure that they practice gently but firmly restraining their dogs every day (release as soon as the puppy relaxes). Also gently handling the puppy's body and mouth. Give treats to make the experience even more pleasant occasionally.

Debbie provided great advice and a training plan to tackle problems we were having with our 4 year old dog


It is natural for puppies to chew. They do this for fun but also whilst they are teething between the ages of 3 and 6 months.

They need to be given appropriate toys and chew sticks to stop them turning their attention to inappropriate ones e.g. shoes or furniture. If necessary, objects can be coated with bitter apple to deter chewing. Natural, species appropriate feeding helps to tire jaws.

Food guarding:

Dogs may guard their food if they believe it may be taken from them or of they have been under fed or teased. They also guard because their inherent canine drives tell them to. The best way to prevent this developing in a puppy is to approach their food bowls and occasionally add something very tasty. This will teach the puppy that being approached by a human when he is eating is a positive thing.

House/toilet training issues:

Reliable toilet/house training should start with the breeder. A good breeder will have used the puppy’s natural desire to not soil it's living area and to introduce the puppy to the idea of floor pads separate to its sleeping and eating area. Then (from about 4 weeks) toileting outside. New owners must be prepared to accompany a puppy outside at least every hour and/or after it's woken from a nap or eaten. Stay with the puppy and praise for toilets outside. If puppy has an accident indoors clean up quickly and quietly. DO NOT punish the puppy.

Pulling on the lead:

It is a dog’s natural instinct to pull against pressure. The harder a human pulls a dog back the harder the dog will pull. A puppy should be taught to walk to heel and follow on a loose lead using food treats and/or toys and a long lead. It is useful to develop techniques to build the relationship between the owner and dog. The best way is if the dog looks to his human for support and guidance.

Unreliable recall:

Begin working on the puppy’s recall from 8 weeks using food treats and/toys. Don’t call your puppy unless you are in a position to get him to come to you. Start recall training with no distractions and gradually introduce these under controlled conditions.

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