Behavior Problems

Proper socialization and obedience training often prevent a variety of behavior problems.  Unfortunately dogs sometimes exhibit unacceptable behaviors with or without training.  Unless these problems are addressed, puppies can develop bad habits.  Most problems can be corrected with the appropriate training. Do not wait. Problems rarely resolve without intervention. Small problems can quickly become overwhelming. There are several resources available if you have a difficult problem with your dog.  Consult with a dog obedience instructor, your veterinarian, or a dog behaviorist if you need help.  There are a number of good books that deal with the canine behavior problems in detail.  

The following suggestions may help you resolve some common problems.  Seek a professional for additional help if necessary.  

Problem: Dominance

You want to be the "leader of the pack". You want your puppy to respect you, not fear you. Dogs are pack animal, and every pack needs a leader. Around 3 months of age, puppies begin testing to determine who will be the leader of the pack. If you have more than one dog, one of the dogs will assume the job of leader of the dogs, but you should be the ultimate leader of the pack. 

Your dog will learn to respect you if you are a patient teacher and benevolent leader.  Be firm and be fair. A confident approach will help you gain the respect.  Puppies need consistent rules.  Have your puppy sit before you put down the food dish, and sit when you put on and take off the leash. Use a stern tone with commands and corrections. Rewarding positive behavior is essential.  Use food rewards, abundant verbal praise, and gentle petting.  

Harsh treatment and/or physical force is counterproductive. Hitting, yelling, and harsh handling of your dog may result in aggressive behavior. Avoid a power struggle with your puppy, especially if  you are angry. At times, puppies and young dogs can be very frustrating. Walk away and regroup before interacting with your puppy. 

Ask a professional for advice if the problems continue.

Problem: Fear/Shy Reactions

Shy, fearful behavior is often a learned response.  Do not inadvertently reinforce the fearful behavior.  If your puppy seems uneasy about a new situation, do not comfort him.  The puppy will think you are praising him and you will affirm the uneasy response.  Puppies experience several fear imprint periods and a frightening experience can results in a long-term behavior problem. 

When your puppy seems frightened, stay calm.  Speak to your puppy with a happy playful tone and the puppy will follow your lead.  "Oh!  What a wonderful and exciting new sight or sound!"   Help your puppy to perceive the new situation as a safe, exciting one. If the puppy starts barking, correct him with the "enough" command.  Use a stern, low tone of voice.  As soon as the puppy is quiet, continue with the happy, jolly routine.  The tail should start wagging. Obedience and agility training may help your puppy gain confidence.  

Ask a professional for help as soon as possible if the problem behavior continues.  Do not delay! Your veterinarian may be able to help resolve the problem or recommend someone that can assist you.