Next time you find yourself saying the words “bad dog,” you might want to take a step back and think about what’s really behind that undesirable behavior. Dogs exhibit “bad” behavior for a variety of reasons, from lack of exercise to health issues, and addressing the root cause of the issue can help. Below are seven reasons dogs develop behavior problems:
1. Lack of Exercise: A tired dog is usually a happy dog, and one that’s less likely to chew up your shoes or bark at the mailman. A lot of owners don’t realize that a stroll around the block isn’t enough physical stimulation to ward of problem behavior. A run, an afternoon at doggy daycare, or a game of fetch is necessary for many dogs to get the proper amount of exercise. Speak with your vet about the right amount of physical activity for your individual dog.
2. Lack of Mental Stimulation: Just as crucial as physical activity, dogs need mental activity to keep them at their best behavior. Work on some training or try a food puzzle toy to ensure balanced mental health and help deter unwanted behavior.
3. Health Problems: If your dog starts displaying an uncharacteristic problem behavior, like aggression or using the bathroom indoors, it’s very possible that a health issue could be to blame. Any painful condition, from arthritis to an ear infection, can cause a dog to act out aggressively. A urinary tract infection could be the culprit for your dog’s sudden inability to hold it while you’re away. Be sure to discuss any sudden changes in behavior with your vet to rule out possible health issues.
4. Inconsistency: If you let your dog jump up on you in your everyday clothes, but scold him when you’re dressed up, this sends an unclear message. Inconsistency can also come in the form of everyone in the household not being on the same page about the rules. To ensure inconstancy doesn’t hinder your pup’s good behavior, work on training on a regular basis and be sure that the whole family is in agreement about expectations.
5. Lack of Socialization: Not having enough experience with other people, animals, and experiences outside of the home can result in fearful or aggressive behavior. Puppies should be exposed to a variety of experiences at a young age to develop healthy social skills. If you’re adopting an adult dog, speak with the shelter staff to determine what kind of training and exposure is recommended (many adoptable dogs have great social skills, while other may need a little work).
6. Disruption of Routine: Changes in routine can cause canine stress, which can lead to undesirable behaviors as a coping mechanism. Whenever something major happens in your household, whether it be a new four-legged addition or a move, keep your pet’s wellbeing in mind. Stick to your dog’s regular feeding and walking routine, offer comfort items like toys and and a soft bed, and be sure to spend a lot of quality time together to help combat anxiety.
7. Genetics: Although proper training and socialization can help curb some genetic traits, some breeds are just more prone to certain behaviors than others. For example, terriers are more likely to try to chase that neighborhood cat because of their prey instinct, and hounds are likely to express themselves by howling. While these aren’t necessarily negatives and training can definitely help, potential owners should do their research about a breed’s behavior quirks before bringing a new pet home.