The Best Ways to Solve Pet Behavioral Issues

Dec 23, 2020 | Personal Insurance

Our pets are our companions, and they have learned to live with us and always like to please us. However, of course, we have to train them to avoid their destructive behaviors that can cause problems to their humans and other animals and people too.

Pet Behavior Problems in Dogs

The two most common behavior problems found on dogs are aggression and scavenging. There are many other pet habits too that owners also consider harmful to other people too and even annoying. However, aggression and scavenging are the most dangerous for your dogs, the people, and animals around them too. You should consider taking your pets to the veterinarian to check if your beloved dogs have any health problems as a first step if the issue you see is new and something unique in your dog’s routine. Take note that some behaviors that are considered major issues for some owners are non-issues for others. This means that some issues may not matter at all. For instance, some owners would never allow their dogs to sleep beside them in bed, while others don’t mind. Some owners would not want their dogs to bark so much. While for some owners, some would want to notify them when someone’s at their door. In the end, it’s up to you, your dog, and potential consequences, whether something is an issue or not.

Common Dog Behaviors & Symptoms

Causes of bad or destructive behavior in dogs can vary from boredom to malnutrition to injury or illness. Sometimes, there are cases that we send the wrong signals, and dogs are thinking that they’re doing the right thing. One example is when your dog growls or barks at another dog, your dog will think it’s ok to act this way when you try to pick them up or pet them. They may also think that it’s desirable to act aggressively since you rewarded them because of it. The same applies for dogs whining, barking, and howling to get your attention. If you tend always to start talking to your dog, play with them, or give them food, this kind of behavior will continue. Some of these kinds of weird dog behaviors are instinctive, while some are bad habits that have formed over time, and some might be causes of a possible health condition. We have listed some typical dog behaviors that are easy to see; however, it might be hard to eliminate.

Instinctive Behavior

Some instinctive behaviors include digging, chewing, chasing, and rolling in the dirt, poop, or dead animals. These kinds of actions are natural dog behaviors that we cannot avoid. You can train your dog so we can minimize these kinds of habits. However, it won’t be easy, of course.

Bad Habits

We sometimes encourage bad habits for our dogs to do like resource guarding, jumping on people, climbing on furniture, begging for food, clingy behavior, and taking over your bed. You must set clear boundaries and always be consistent if you don’t want your pet to continue these habits. It’s also important that you provide your pet dogs comfort, safety, and enough food so they won’t be demanding.

Health Issues

Health issues can make your dog become aggressive, growl, and bite. Separation anxiety can also be a big problem for some dog owners since their pooches tend to destroy things while there’s no one home. Some signs of illness or injury can include excessive licking, eating poop, defecating, and urinating indoors.

First Things First

Take note that this is not a definitive guide since your dog might act out differently since they are just bored. Make sure your beloved dogs are healthy and are getting enough exercise before you make any conclusions. If you decide a terrible and unwanted behavior as acting out or seeking attention when there’s, in fact, an underlying health condition, things can get worst.

Training Options

You will need to contact a dog behavior specialist for some dog behavior issues that continue to appear. Most owners rely on professionals to help them deal with aggression, resource guarding, and separation anxiety. The experts can help you with dog behavior training, no matter how worst or mild their manners can be.

However, you don’t need to get a pet behavior expert to deal with problematic dog behavior. You have a choice to train them yourself. Making the right approach and always being consistent are the keys to success. Bear in mind what you want to attain and find the very best way to achieve it. It would be better to do this with patience and enough treats and also avoid punishment as a form of a training method.

List of Dog Behaviors

Here are some following dog behaviors that owners find harmful or annoying. Feel free to tell us what other behaviors you have dealt with and how you solved them.

Barking and howling Excessive barking and howling can be annoying for both of you and your neighbors. So, we suggest putting a stop on this kind of behavior as soon as possible.

Digging – Some dogs really just love to dig, it’s natural to them. However, if your carpets or your garden are getting destroyed because they continue digging, you’ll have to train your dogs to stop.

Chewing – Chewing is also one of the most common problems in dogs. They chew things like your shoes, phone, clothes, etc.

Play biting – Play biting is so much common in puppies and this is a kind of rough play. Your puppies are still young, and they don’t know better, so we highly suggest to teach them.

Separation anxiety – Your dogs with separation anxiety will be nervous and destructive when you’re away from home.

Urinating and defecating inside – Urinating and defecating inside your home can be signs of health problems if your dog is already potty trained. We suggest taking your dog immediately to the veterinarian to check for medical issues and also find treatment.

Growling and biting – Growling and biting are signs of aggression. If you see signs of your dogs doing this kind of habit, find out the cause, and start training. We suggest stopping this as soon as possible before another animal or another person is seriously injured.

Resource guarding – Your dogs might get possessive-aggressive and might also start to act out when they think there’s not enough food for them, so they guard them very carefully. This also applies to their toys and their place on your sofa.

Begging for food or stealing food – You must be careful when you want your dogs to stop begging for food while you eat or stealing your dinner. They’ll do everything to get the food when they have their eyes on it.

Chasing – We also suggest teaching your dogs to sit, stay, and come to prevent them from running away since going after small prey is an urge some of your dogs can’t resist.

Jumping up on people – Pets are jumpy and will get excited when someone comes to your house and visit. They might also jump onto your visitors. This may be cute. However, some people can be bothered with this kind of gesture. We suggest teaching your dog good manners.

Eating poop – Eating poop is, of course, a nasty habit that is out of preference, boredom, and even malnutrition. Humans will never understand or even accept dogs eating poop as a natural behavior.

Climbing on furniture – It’s on the owner to decide whether their pets are allowed on the furniture. However, when they jump onto the kitchen counter to steal your food, that’s an issue that is worth looking into.

Clingy behavior – Some dogs are more of a lap dog. However, when you can’t even do anything without your dog like going to the bathroom, that’s already a sign that your beloved pet is already too clingy.

Leash aggression and pulling – Dogs can get very upset when being restrained if they were not introduced to leash early. It will be hard to put them on a leash. When you manage to put them on a leash, your dogs will always pull and run in front of you.

Rolling in dirt, poop, or dead animals – Rolling in dirt, poop, or dead animals is a dog’s favorite habit. If you just bathe your dog and they’re all clean and fresh, then be careful when you let your dogs go outside since some of them hate taking baths just like they hate the smell of their shampoo. They will roll in the dirt, poop, or dead animals as they prefer the natural odor.

Taking over your bed – It’s your choice whether you’ll let your pet sleep in your bed. However, when pets are all grown up and start to push you from the bed, you need to teach them and get them under control.

Running away – Certain breeds of dogs that have strong hunter instincts are most likely to run away when they see their prey. However, regardless of breed, always check your dogs during spring and fall when the female dogs are in heat.

Excessive licking – Excessive licking is a sign of an underlying health issue. They might be injured or have an infection if your dog is licking themselves. However, if they lick everything and everyone, there might be a hidden issue. We suggest taking your dogs to the veterinarian to learn the cause of it.

Body Language and Diagnosis – Through the body language of dogs, it is sometimes possible to see signs of aggressive or destructive behavior. Learn how to see signs of discomfort, fear, or aggression on your dogs and prevent bad behavior before this happens. Direct your pet’s attention back on you or something else that distracts them or much better, immediately take them out of a scary situation. We listed some body language signals that you can learn to use to your advantage.

Shy or Nervous Dog – When your dogs are shy or nervous, they get behind you. They may also yawn, lick their nose, shake off and pull their ears backward and flat against their head. Your dog might turn to be aggressive if they’re nervous around new people or other dogs. If your dogs feel threatened, instruct the people around them to approach your dogs carefully or not approach them at all.

Fearful Dog – You can see the hairs on your dog’s neck and back go up when they’re scared or suspicious about something or someone. When a dog is doubtful, they will be stiff with their head and neck raised and tail pointing up. A scared dog might try to pull back and growl or back. The best solution for this is to get out of the situation quickly by walking the other way around.

Stalking – If your dog is bowed with a stiff tail, legs bent, and eyes wide open and fixed on their target, they will usually run off and start chasing them. This doesn’t matter whether this is a toy or a bird. If you have trained your dog well enough, you can always call them back and get their attention as well. However, some dogs can run off and get lost since they find their hunter instincts very hard to combat. We suggest keeping them on a leash if you notice these signs, and you’re not sure if your dog will respond to you.

Playful – Dogs will bark at you to get your attention and if they want to play with you. In this kind of stance, your dog’s body is more relaxed, soft, and its tail will be wagging endlessly.

Anxious – Your dogs can get super anxious too. They will show signs of nervousness, anxiety and will be super clingy when you’re about to leave. These can be signs of separation anxiety. You’ll know once you get home. Your lonely dogs might destroy some of your things in your home.

Begging for Food or Getting Ready to Steal – Do you observe that sometimes your dogs are around your table while you’re eating? Do you also notice that they sit like a good boy while licking their lips? It’s pretty obvious that they’re after your food. Some of your dogs might even jump up onto the table, whine or bark at you. We suggest just ignoring this bad behavior if you don’t want to share every meal with your pets. However, if ignoring is difficult for you, bring your pooches to another room while you finish your meal.

Training and Treatment

You have to start training your dog the moment they step into your home. You have to make the rules in your own home, and with the right stimuli, your dogs will also start to obey. Dogs want to make us happy all the time, so all of them respond well, depending on how we treat them. However, sometimes, we encourage bad behaviors by providing them attention, comfort, and treats. Our dogs will take this attention as a reward. The very best way to stop bad behavior is to ignore it since punishment doesn’t work. Your dogs will eventually get frustrated, which could result in fear or aggressive behavior, and this might only show a short-term result.

Set the Environment and Ground Rules To keep your dog happy and obedient, do the right conditions, provide enough food for them, set the rules, and exercise your dog. You also always have to be consistent. Your dog will be confused if you’re not consistent and will make you stressed. If you feed your dog table scraps and allow them on your bed one day and then you suddenly punish them for the same things they do another day, your dogs would not understand what you want them to really do. You also have to adjust your behavior. Dog behavior training is effective with your consistency. If you don’t allow something today, then it should not be alright in the next few days.

Teach a Few Basic Commands First – Of course, when owning a pet dog, you also have to teach them basic commands like calling them and how to sit down. This is essentially other than your dog’s basic needs and making sure that they are indeed healthy. These are simple things that can help your dogs go a long way for further training. If your dogs happen to chew on your shoes and destroy your personal items, we suggest limiting their access to these before you train them not to chew. We also suggest giving them toys to play with, so they won’t go after your property.

Destructive Behavior in Puppies Puppies are new little bundles of joy, and both of you can be excited. However, it will be so much stressful for both of you at first since they might start making a mess and destroy your things. But, this can also be a good thing since you can train them early.

Pediatric Behavior Problems in Dogs

Puppy behaviors like chewing, play biting, jumping up on people, and getting on furniture are normal habits for puppies. They’re not aware of the rules yet and just want to have fun and show you how much they love you. Chewing is a common destructive behavior. This can be a huge issue in the teething phase in puppies. We suggest giving them chew toys and don’t give them access to anything except those toys. Play biting can also be an issue for pet owners since the teeth of puppies are very sharp and can cause injuries. Be sure not to encourage this rough play. If they do this behavior, show them that they hurt you and express a sharp “no” while pulling your hand back and end playtime early.

Treatment

You can fix most puppy behavior issues. You just have to acquire the right food, interesting toys, enough exercise, and a relaxing sleeping area for your pet dogs. We suggest limiting their access to some areas of your house and to all the items they could destroy. Give them praise and rewards so you’ll have a happy puppy. You can also go for puppy classes since this is a perfect solution for basic obedience and habits. Teach them how to sit on command and come when they are called and start from there.

Monitor Your Dog’s Behavior

When your dog exhibits good behavior in front of you while you’re home but turns into a monster when you’re not around, then these kinds of issues are from separation anxiety, boredom, or lack of exercise. We suggest getting a pet camera in order to monitor your dog’s behavior when you’re not home. This is also to avoid getting home to a battleground.

One good pet treat camera is Petcube Bites. This can be the best solution to watch your dog all day and night. You can connect the camera through an app on your phone, and you can also talk to your beloved pet and throw treats at them. With this kind of gadget, this will give your pooches extra attention, food, and exercise too.

FAQs

How do you discipline a dog?

Ignoring or giving them a time-out is one of the effective ways to discipline your dogs. A few more things to do is distract them with a loud noise, say a firm “no,” or order them to sit. You can also spray them with water to stop the bad behavior. Also, you can use a quick leash snap when your dog is on a leash. Other ways that are effective are taking away toys and holding back on their rewards. However, be sure never to hit your dog.

Why is my dog suddenly being aggressive?

This might only mean one thing; they might be sick or in pain. Dogs that are in pain will even snap, growl, and bark at their owners. We suggest taking your dogs to a veterinarian to check if there’s a health problem.

Why is my dog trying to bite me?

If they’re still young and starting, they might only find it as a rough play. However, if an adult dog is trying to bite you, then they might not have learned that biting is wrong. Another possible answer is that your dog is getting aggressive. The first step is to rule out a medical issue and other obvious reasons like resource guarding and then address the problem.

Is it bad to let my dog sleep with me?

There’s actually nothing wrong to let your dog sleep with you even though some may argue that dogs are dirty, shed a lot, might have parasites, and don’t really smell good. But, if they’re clean and healthy, please do go ahead! Your dogs will be very happy to sleep with you. Sleeping with dogs can actually improve a person’s sleep.

How do I stop my dog from jumping on my bed?

Always be consistent and set clear boundaries to avoid your dogs from jumping on your bed. One unforgivable example is you let your dog sleep with you for a week, but then you kick them out when you’re not in the mood one night. Always make sure that they have a comfortable and safe sleeping station. If they want to be close to you, make sure to put their sleeping space near your bed.

How do I stop dog aggression?

Make sure to determine the reason for aggression before you correct it. Rule out health issues then check for resource guarding, previous abuse, fear, anxiety, and lack of exercise. If you have small children in your home, refrain them from interacting with your dogs until the aggression stops. However, it’s best to call an expert on pet behaviors in some cases.

Why is my dog eating poop and rolling in it?

Your pooches might be missing some nutrients, or they’re hungry if they’re eating their poop. They may also try eating what they can if this happens. Dogs think that poop smells good, so they will really try to eat it. Dogs also mask their smell when hunting, so they roll in smelly things instinctively.

Your dog might be lacking nutrients or is still hungry if they eat their poop. So, they may be trying to eat anything they can. Dogs also think that poop smells great, so they will often indulge in it. It can also be instinct as dogs are used to rolling in smelly things to mask their smell while hunting.

Pet Behavior Problems in Cats

The most common behavioral issues in cats are linked with elimination. Some of these problems are about the litter box, while some focus on social conflicts that involve anxiety or aggression. Most cat aggression is subdued and passive, so there are instances that their owners do not take this seriously.

It is essential to make sure that your cat can do normal feline behaviors in order to both prevent and treat the problems. Their major needs include eating or hunting, drinking, elimination of urine and feces, security, play and exploration, climbing, perching, and scratching. Hunting and feeding needs might satisfy your cats if you give food in small portions throughout the whole day and placing treats in their toys that requires them movement in order to get the food like batting, chasing, rolling, and pawing. So there would also be an element of hunting. Your cat should have opportunities to chase, pounce on, and bite toys as you dangle or pull them from your cat.

You should find toys that may interest your cat so they could be motivated to play. They may be given small toys for batting and chasing, boxes, or containers to explore and tools to climb upon, perch and scratch. Catnip is also good. 50% – 75% of cats respond to catnip.

When you reward your cats for good behaviors with positive reinforcement, techniques like treats or favorite toys can help them learn how to urinate, defecate, climb, scratch, or perch incorrect locations. Punishment is not recommended since your cat can become scared of you and will only stop the bad behavior when you’re just in front of them. You should also stop them from giving access to areas in which they do the undesirable behaviors. Another recommended thing to do is making the area unpleasant with tastes like placing cayenne pepper, odor such as placing citrus, touch such as placing the carpet runner upside down, and putting a double-sided sticky tape or even placing a motion-activated device such as an alarm or air spray.

Alternative desirable behavior called response substitution can be a helpful approach if your cat is reward trained with food or their favorite toys. This is done with simple commands like “come” and “sit.” A leash and harness can also help. You should also help your cat when they are scared of something or someone. Confine them in one room with their litter, toys, bedding, and food so you could prevent this problem from getting worse. When your cat is calm and comfortable enough, you can try desensitizing and counterconditioning techniques.

Diagnosing and treating behavior problems in cats is complicated and requires meeting with a qualified behaviorist. We would like to help you understand the different behavior problems in cats and their possible treatment.

Behavior Problems Associated with Aggression

The aggression of cats towards people may be due to fear that is related to play or because of predatory instincts. Cats that bite when you pet them may not enjoy physical contact, and some cats bite to avoid people from touching them when they are just resting, sleeping, or eating.

When a cat is approached when it is aroused, aggression may be intense to handle. Aggression towards strangers is usually because of fear.

Aggression also happens when cats weren’t handled early when they were just kittens. Early exposure to people is important for kittens to become friendly adult cats. However, this could be hereditary sometimes. The cat may be friendly with its owner but not with other people.

When you control a cat’s behavior, they exhibit status-related aggression such as scratching or biting. Unlike in dogs, this cat’s behavior is not linked with resources such as food, toys, or space.

Aggression towards other cats in your home may be due to play, predatory behavior, redirected behavior, fear and status-related behavior in which cats use aggression to keep control of sleeping areas, their common areas or food. On the other hand, aggression towards unfamiliar cats can be linked to fear or in order to protect their territory.

Fear aggression happens in instances that make a cat scared. Many kinds of aggression is caused by fear. When cats are scared, they will try to avoid the threat. However, they can become aggressive when they can’t escape the threat. They may also become more aggressive even when they are not threatened. Poor socialization, temperament, previous punishment, and learning can also lead to aggression.

Maternal aggression is excessive aggression done by a mother cat towards people, other cats, or even her kittens. This may be normal when it’s only minimal and especially during the time of weaning. Too much aggression may harm her kittens. The aggression may stop when the kittens finish nursing.

Pain aggression also happens when your cat is in pain. This may also happen when a cat waits to be moved or touched. Illnesses and diseases can also cause aggression so veterinarians rule out medical causes of aggression.

Redirected aggression happens when you prevent your cat from reaching its target. She will then attack another cat or a person. This is not accidental, and your cat will pursue the other cat or person. One example is when your cat sees another cat outside and was aroused, it may then attack a third cat inside your house since it can’t reach the cat outside.

Predatory aggression is behavior linked with predation such as stalking, pawing, pouncing, chasing, and biting.

Play aggression happens along with play behaviors like biting, chasing, and play fighting.

Treatment

The very first important step to fix aggression is to prevent further injuries to people and to other cats. If your cat is agitated with other cats, they need to be separated and should be slowly reintroduced after implementing behavioral techniques. Like dogs, cats will work for food rewards in counterconditioning programs. It is also necessary to seek the help of a veterinarian so that your cats can be treated properly and successfully. The earlier the start of the treatment program, the more successful it can get.

Behavior Problems Associated with Elimination

In terms of house soiling or using a litter box, your cat’s veterinarian will exclude any medical problems since many conditions can cause cats to urinate or defecate outside their litter box. Your vet will ask you how and where the accidents occur, litter box details, cleaning routines, and type of litter. Blood and urine tests will also be done to rule out health conditions.

Spraying or urine marking is the elimination of urine through a small stream of urine. This is done by cats while standing up with the tail raised and quivering. The urine is set onto a vertical surface like a wall, curtain or door. This is more common in male cats. Neutering male cats can help eliminate this kind of behavior in 90% of cats. Spraying can be a form of marking or as a sign of anxiety.

Cats with no appropriate elimination relieve on horizontal spaces such as carpet, rugs, beds, or clothes. Those who return to the same area may have a location preference. This involves consistent elimination in a place outside of the litter box. Cats that do not use their litter box may just be avoiding the litter box or its location. Consult a veterinarian for possible medical problems then he will address the behavioral issue after. When cats avoid their litter box, it might be because of the litter (texture, depth, scent, cleanliness), box (size, shape, hood), or location that is not appealing to them; unpleasant experiences at or near the box (insufficient cleaning, noises, pain due to medical problems) or difficulty in gaining access to the box. Cats may also avoid their litter if there is a conflict between your cats in your home. They may also have a preference for a particular odor, texture, or location.

Treatment

Treatment of elimination disorders requires addressing the anxieties of your cats. You should keep your litter as clean as possible at all times, and you should also determine what your cat likes a combination of the litter box, number of boxes, and the location. If your cat has anxiety, medication, and behavior modification techniques can help. Again, punishment is not recommended and makes the problem even worse. Always ask for help from your veterinarian.

Other Feline Behavior Problems

Other kinds of behavior problems also happen in cats.

  • Hyperesthesia is a syndrome in cats that is not yet completely understood. Cats that have this problem may be sensitive to being touched, especially along their back. They become agitated when they are handled, and they even groom the area excessively. They would also hiss or bite its back, cry, run, and even defecate. Bring your cat to a vet to rule out medical causes, especially pain and skin conditions. If there is no medical condition, it may be a compulsive disorder.
  • Compulsive behavior also happens in cats. The most common kinds of this behavior are excessive grooming, chewing of wool, other fabrics, plastic, rubber, cardboard, or string. This may be due to stress or anxiety. Your vet can help you with a behavior modification program, and he can also give your cat some medicines.
  • Fear in cats can, of course, also become a problem. This may be due to minimal socialization when they were just kittens or due to frightening experiences. This can also be inherited. Fear can also lead to threatening behavior such as growling and hissing, aggression such as biting or scratching, avoidance, hiding, and also spraying. You should identify what is causing the fear. Your vet can make a treatment plan that includes avoidance, behavior modification techniques, and also medications.
  • Older cats can experience different medical conditions that can also cause abnormal behaviors. They may have cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is similar to Alzheimer’s disease. This can cause disorientation, agitation, anxiety, memory loss, house soiling, and personality changes. If you notice such changes in your older cats, head to your vet immediately to rule out medical conditions and make an effective treatment plan.

Ask us any questions!

Thank you for reading our article about your dear pets. Please let us know if you have any questions about the topic we discussed in this particular article. Don’t hesitate to call or email us if you have some things that are not clear to you, and we will gladly answer them. Please also don’t forget to read our other articles about your pets. We hope we were able to answer some of your questions in this write-up. Have a fun day with your beloved pets!