Top Dog Behaviour Problems

top dog behaviour problems

When it comes to some of the top dog behaviour problems trainers are called in to help with, Erin Williams from Beyond Dog Training in Sydney and speaker at this year’s Sydney The Pet Show shares her top three, plus some key tips to help.

1. Over-arousal

When it comes to top dog behaviour problems, when a dog remains in a state of over-arousal, things can go bad very quickly because dogs are in the reactive part of their brain where there is less contact with their regulatory system where impulse control comes from.  We want to MANAGE their arousal levels so that they don’t make bad decisions.

WHY it’s a problem

Arousal levels are often misunderstood by handlers who sometimes mistakenly see the behaviours as harmless or even amusing. However, it can lead the dog to make bad decisions & can create misunderstandings which result in reactivity &/or aggression. We want to intervene BEFORE it gets to this point of being out of control.

HOW it occurs 

  • It occurs in dogs that have little training or who don’t have appropriate outlets for their energy.
  • We see it in dog parks where there is little supervision and in inadequately supervised play between more than two dogs, e.g., in old fashioned “mosh-pit” style puppy classes.
  • We see it during uncapped “Zoomies.”

TIPS to help

  • Spend time training your puppy/dog so that they develop impulse control.
  • Supervise play whether it’s with another dog, or a child.
  • Redirect a highly aroused dog onto a calmer behaviour, ideally before they become too over aroused, e.g., a training session, a Noseworks, a snuffle mat, or scenting activity. These activities put the dog back into the thinking part of their brain.
2. Reactivity on lead

When it comes to top dog behaviour problems, leash reactivity is probably the biggest concern for dog owners when walking their dogs. It happens when another dog appears and is either on, or off lead, or we are passing barking dogs in house yards.

These are called TRIGGERS. The dog being walked starts to “play-up.” What is really going on is that the dog is not coping with the stressful situation and is trying to get away or they feel like they have no choice but to be defensive by being offensive first.

WHY it’s a problem

  • It comes from a state of fear, or concern, or anxiety within the dog.
  • It gets worse the more the dog is subjected to the trigger.
  • Handlers can be injured and/or pulled over by their dog.

HOW it occurs

  • It is mostly due to a lack of socialisation and confidence building as a puppy.
  • It can be a pre-existing genetically acquired anxiety.
  • There may have been a previous aggressive or scary incident.
  • Owners can pass on their own anxiety to their dog, through the lead.

TIPS to help

  • Properly SOCIALISE puppies early (avoid FLOODING them)
  • Help your dog to build confidence and to look to you for guidance when they are unsure.
  • Find another walking area. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO walk your dog down suburban streets. I call this “Running the Gauntlet.” Put them in the car and drive somewhere quiet where they can spend the entire time, sniffing and enjoying their walk and the environment more.
3. Anxiety

Dog trainers have seen a marked increase in anxiety with the proliferation of backyard breeding and a lack of early SOCIALISATION. Good breeders won’t breed from dogs with any level of anxiety because it is passed on genetically to the litter.

Some owners mistake their dog’s anxious behaviours for being naughty and mistakenly punish their dog thinking it will change things.

A qualified Dog Trainer can help to identify it, educate, and help owners to work through it. It may require the assistance of a Veterinary Behaviourist so that the dog has a greater chance of living a better life with the anxiety under some control.

WHY it’s a problem

  • It creates stress and sometimes trauma, for dogs and their human families.
  • It requires resources and commitment to address it – financial, time and energy.
  • It can result in a disconnect between owners and their dogs, leading to owners feeling the need to rehome their dog if the family struggles to cope.

HOW it occurs

  • Mistakenly purchasing dogs from online commercial selling sites, instead of for example, seeking a registered dog breeder who is a member of organisations such as the ANKC, now called Dogs Australia.
  • Not doing research on the breed and the breeder.
  • Not meeting or viewing the mother and the father of their pup BEFORE purchase.
  • Subjecting anxious dogs repeatedly to triggering environments.
  • Minimal or poor early socialisation (and understanding how to socialise positively without causing FLOODNG).

TIPS to help 

  • Ask questions and seek out professional resources to help address this debilitating issue. It WON’T just go away. It will likely GET WORSE without intervention.
  • Reach out to a qualified, Force Free Trainer. Never use punishment or aversive training methods.
  • Be compassionate and empathetic towards anxious pets. It’s much harder for them to cope with anxiety than it is for us.
  • Enlist the help of friends and family if needed, to give yourself some time away from being the caregiver 24/7.

To learn more about the importance of treating dog behaviour problems early, to help combat some of these top dog behaviour problems, click here.

Hear from Erin at The Pet Show Sydney, being held November 18 – 19 2023, 10am – 4pm at the Sydney Show grounds.  To purchase your tickets  click here.

The Pet Show will also be held in other states in 2024 including:

  • Melbourne: 13th – 14th April, 2024
  • Adelaide: 18th – 19th May, 2024
  • Brisbane: 22nd – 23rd June, 2024

About the Author: Erin Williams has completed a Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services with Australia’s highly respected Delta Institute as well as a Certificate IV in Small Business Management. She considers that Positive Reward Based Dog Training will lay the foundations for a ‘new approach’ in the future of pet care worldwide and runs her dog training services Beyond Dog Training in the Hunter Valley, NSW.

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