Common Behavioural Problems – Solved!

We all have questions about our dogs and why they do certain things and can't shake certain habits. This month we've taken some of your most common dog behaviour questions and asked two experts to offer their advice.

This month, first up...

Why Does My Dog Jump Up?

A popular euphemism for jumping up is ‘excited greeting’. In reality an excited greeting is a frantically wagging tail, jumping up is undesirable for numerous reasons. The quickest and easiest way to solve this problem relies on making the dog dislike jumping up.

People often try to reward a dog for not jumping up as a means of eliminating the behaviour, but what are you really rewarding? As far as the dog is concerned, you could be rewarding him for not doing all sorts of things. The danger of the dog not knowing why he is getting the reward out weighs the potential benefit.

A simple way of discouraging the behaviour is by making the experience of jumping up very unpleasant for the dog.

Common Behavioural Problems - Solved!

Upon returning home or entering a room, or any situation where the dog will want to jump up, apply this rule. If the dog jumps up, leave the room. Repeat this as many times as are necessary. What the dog desires is your presence. Eventually he will learn that jumping up deprives him of that presence.

Persuade a friend to practice the same technique until the dog works out that jumping means prolonged separation from you. If a visitor comes and your dog jumps up it is impractical to keep leaving the room, or to send your guest away, so simply shut the dog away as soon as he jumps up. Make it almost like on movement, otherwise the dog may not know what the punishment is for. Don’t leave a delay between the jump and the punishment.

Although his jumping may be an innocent display of affection or intrigue with a visitor, the consequence of a spilled hot drink, a ripped blouse or an injured or frightened child make the behaviour entirely undesirable.

Now onto our second question...

Why Does My Dog Bark (A Lot!)?

Contributed with the help of Karen L Overall of the Centre for Neurobiology and Behaviour, Psychiatry Department, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

There are many causes for this behaviour. Separation anxiety, craving for attention and even the doorbell can cause the most placid dogs to bark inappropriately.

When trying to discourage inappropriate barking it is important that you know the reason for the barking. Some dogs bark at the doorbell in protection of their pack (the family). It is important not to discourage the desire to protect the family, but allow the dog to associate the doorbell with good things. Practice this by inviting friends over to ring the doorbell. Correct any barks with a firm ‘no’ and allow your friend to reward the dog when he resists temptation to ‘warn you of intruders’.

Dogs that suffer with separation anxiety should be treated for that before any barking issues are addressed as barking is a symptom of it rather than a result.

The key to dealing with dogs that bark for attention is patience and the ability to be on hand to reward good behaviour. It is ineffective to reward a dog for simply not barking, unless that reward is an alternative to the undesirable behaviour.

Again, your friends can help with this. Get a friend to sit with the dog as you ‘leave the house’. Your friend can distract the dog with the treat and also positively reinforce the no barking rule. Only return to your dog when he has successfully completed a designated period of not barking. As soon as the dog barks, your friend should leave the room.

Then try it without your friend. Simply leave a few treats with the dog on his own. Do not return to him if he barks. If he continues to bark return to the dog, issue a ‘no’ and leave, offering no attention or physical contact.

Do you have any particular dog behaviour problems you've like to submit to our expert panel? Let us know!

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