4 Main Causes of Problem Behaviour

Do you know why your dog barks excessively? Why they pull on leash or jump up on people? Why they seem anxious and afraid, or aggressive? Discover the reasons your dog does what they do by learning the four main causes of problem behaviour.

 4 Main Causes of Problem Behaviour

  • Lack of Exercise: Within just the past 100 years, dogs have been fired from their long held roles as our constant companions and helpers, and though we still demand dogs designed for athletic performance, sporting, and working, we also expect that our dogs lie there, quietly, all day long, all alone. Dogs need to spend plenty of time running, jumping, and playing every day. Some herding, sporting, and terrier breeds need 4 hours a day, or more! Lace up those runners and get that bike out! Balance the right amount of physical exercise with mental stimulation, like going to new places, meeting new friends, and learning new tricks.


  • Lack of Socialization and Conditioning: Introduce your puppy to big dogs and small ones, horses of course, and 3-legged cats. Have them try on boots, and practice bandaging a ‘wound,’ meet nice calm kids and men with hats, pair it all with treats, and you’re on the right track. Teach them they can handle anything! Increase your dog’s confidence by introducing stressors like sounds, time spent alone, walking on grates and slippery surfaces in early puppyhood, ensuring that your dog has pleasant experiences. Very often, rescued dogs are woefully under-socialized, and display behaviour that looks similar to that of an abused pet; they cower and fear unknown people, places, and objects. If critical socialization periods have been missed, we cannot undo the damage done by bringing our rescue dogs everywhere exclaiming: “see, it’s no big deal!” What your rescue dog will need is very brief, very pleasant, very low stress interactions and exposures, they will need to approach on their own, and at a slower pace than the socialization protocol we suggest for brand new puppies.


  • Lack of Time Spent Together: Playing with other dogs is great, but your relationship will suffer if your dog never learns to look to you for all their needs and wants, including the free time they spend with canine friends. Make your relationship matter most. Teaching tricks might seem pointless, and many people say to me “I don’t care about the tricks, I just want my dog to stop doing X, Y, and Z,” but teaching your dog what to do instead not only gives them an outlet for their active, intelligent, social brains, it is the key to having a dog that hangs on your every word and to having a dog that actually wants to listen to you.Training builds your relationship through common language. Keep your dog busy and out of trouble by always teaching something new. Once you run out of things to teach your dog, read a book, take an advanced training class, and look up cool trick videos online! Each cue is learned quicker than the last, before you know it they are fetching beer from the fridge, finding lost keys in the couch, and turning out the lights at night. Instead of dragging you to the park, they are staring up at you, wondering what cool thing you’ll teach them next, happily picking up your leash should you drop it. Training is time well spent. You will be amazed how much training increases the bond you share with your dog. Plus, your dog could be in a movie, or just star in a lonely someone’s day!


  • Confusion, due to a lack of clear, consistent handling: Increase your dog’s ability to control impulsive behaviour with obedience training, using positive reinforcement. Be clear with your dog about which behaviours are acceptable, and interrupt errors in a matter of fact, non-emotional way, never out of anger or frustration. The effectiveness of a correction or punishment isn’t determined by volume or severity; it is determined by the timing and consistency with which it is applied. A lot of common behaviour problems are made much worse by adding confusing or stressful punishments. A simple ‘ah!’ or ‘nope!’ should be enough to stop most dogs in most situations from doing almost anything, like chewing, digging, and jumping up on counters… IF you supervise, your timing is good, and you are consistent… If not, no amount of kicking or screaming will help. Partial punishment is a motivator, and that means it will make bad behaviour worse. Now, your dog has the joy of digging, jumping up, chewing shoes, AND the thrill of trying to get away with it! Regression is natural in dog training, and especially in behaviour modification. Of course your dog will try the bad behaviour again a few times down the road to see if rewards might still be available. Didn’t you try another sip of coffee after the first two burned you? You know how motivating rewards are! Don’t get into trouble with increasingly nasty punishments, and don’t give up when they inevitably do something doggish. All your dog has ever needed to understand is for the message to be clear -so stick to your story. Use mirrors, use your cunning intellect, and use willpower when your puppy jumps up, chews, or digs especially adorably. It can’t be ‘yes’ today and ‘no’ tomorrow, get it straight or your dog will have an anxiety problem to add to the list.

When I was a young dog trainer, I was taught that the 4th main cause of problem behaviours in dogs was ‘confusion about the pack hierarchy,’ but it has come to light in the scientific community that dogs don’t charge through doorways ahead of us to assert their dominance, they barge by to get outside faster. They don’t think they rule your roost simply because they are high up on the couch, they just really like the soft spot, and they would prefer to be closer to you. They don’t walk ahead because you have been babying them, they just want to get to the park. Dogs are motivated by many things, but ‘dominance’ isn’t one of them.

If you want help handling your dog’s problem behaviour, book a free private training session now!