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A study by Dr Claire Corridan from the Companion Animal Behaviour Therapy Study Group found that a worrying eight out of ten pet pooches display some sort of behavioural issue. If you are concerned about your dog's wellbeing, here are a few of the most common problems and what to do about them.
First things first - dogs are supposed to bark. Along with body language, it is a key canine communication tool. But when the noise becomes excessive or even incessant, it can cause serious problems, not least with the neighbours.
In order to control your dog's barking, it is essential to first determine why he or she is doing so. For some it is guarding, others playfulness, attention-seeking or even anxiety and boredom. An attention-seeking pooch, for example, is best ignored when he barks. Any kind of attention given when he barks, even if it is a stern telling off, has the desired effect. Instead, try ignoring his barks and leave the room until he is quiet. He will soon understand that noise isn't the key to your heart.
If your dog barks when left alone, which is often the cause of tension between owners and their neighbours, ensure that he or she is given a good, long walk before he is left, as boredom is often at the root of the problem. Some find that leaving a radio on quietly helps to quieten their dog down when left alone.
Working out what your dog means when he barks, whines or howls isn't always easy, but there are a number of books that can help. Try Barking: The Sound of a Language by Turid Rugaas for helpful tips on recognising what your pooch is trying to communicate and tips on how to solve the problem.
Chewing is also a natural doggy activity but it can get out of hand, particularly when your hound is bored. With this is mind, plenty of exercise will likely begin to solve the problem, if not entirely. Ensuring that your dog has plenty of approved chew toys should also help, while removing those items you are keen to protect is a common-sense precaution.
Of course, if Fido has turned to furniture to relieve his chew cravings, it's more tricky to fix. Training him as to what is and what isn't a chew toy may help here. Try to correct him with a sharp 'no' or 'leave' when you catch him on a destructive mission, and immediately replace the off-limits item with a chew toy.
And remember - puppies, just like children, go through teething when chewing helps to relieve their painful gums. There are plenty of toys aimed specifically at teething pups on the market, but it's also worth trying a cold carrot or even an old, knotted sock, soaked in water and frozen for a cheaper alternative.
This is one of the most common dog behaviour problems, particularly with owners who leave their pooch for long periods of time. First and foremost, try not to leave your dog for too long. If you have to be out for hours occasionally, get a friend or neighbour to walk your dog, or even pay for a professional dog walker.
Separation anxiety manifests in many ways, from barking and destruction to pacing and messing in the house. Happily, it is rarely an unsolvable problem but teaching your dog that he has not been abandoned every time you leave the house will take time, consistency and patience.
Giving your pet a place where he feels safe is essential if you are to fix this particular issue. A covered crate with a comfy bed and possibly even a piece of your clothing for scented reassurance is a safe haven where your dog will feel more secure.
It's also important to remember that anxious dogs are highly sensitive to the cues that signal your exit. It could be something as simple as putting your coat on or picking up your handbag - to Fido it's already a reason to start worrying. In order to give him confidence, try carrying out those tasks you normally perform immediately before leaving the house... and then don't.
As you repeat the routine, he will learn to accept that it doesn't always mean he'll be left, and you can continue to improve the situation by leaving the house, firstly for just a moment, then for gradually increasing periods of time. Try not to make a fuss of your pet before you leave the house - quickly and quietly is the best way.
If your dog shows signs of aggressive behaviour, action is most definitely needed. Canines show aggression for a variety of reasons, often stemming from fear, possessiveness, frustration, excitement or territorial. Your first port of call should be the vet - aggression in some dogs is caused by a physical symptom such as pain and it is essential that you rule this out before attempting any training.
If this is not the cause, professional help should be sought, whether the behaviour extends to humans or other dogs. Attempting to fix a serious problem in the wrong way can, at best, make the situation worse, and at worst, put you and others in danger. Even fitting a muzzle, which is hopefully the last resort anyway, should be done with care if it is not to exacerbate the issue.
Getting the right behaviourist is important if you are to achieve the desired result. Try asking your vet to refer you to someone, or meet with them to talk through their thoughts on training to make sure they are the right person to take on your troubled hound.
Has your family pet struggled with any of the above? How did you solve the problem? Leave your comments below...