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Common Dog Behaviour Problems and How To Solve Them

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Dr Kate Mornement is an animal behaviourist based in Melbourne, who assists dog owners with a number of different behaviour challenges they experience with their dogs. In this article, she discusses the three most common unwanted behaviours she encounters, and how to resolve them:

  • Jumping up on people

  • Separation anxiety

  • Excessive barking

Why does my dog jump up on my guests and how do I stop it?

“Dogs jump up on people because it’s fun! Often, we encourage young puppies to jump up on us because it’s cute. Once the puppy grows into an adult, the behaviour is no longer cute, and it can hurt and leave dirty paw prints on clothing. For sociable dogs, greeting a visitor is a rewarding experience, even if the dog gets pushed away or told off. For some dogs, this kind of attention is better than nothing, and so the behaviour is reinforced.

To stop your dog from jumping up on visitors the behaviour must no longer be rewarding. By consistently having guests ignore the dog (no eye contact or talking to the dog) when it jumps up on them, and reward it with praise, attention and/or a treat for sitting politely, the dog will soon learn that sitting in the presence of guests is more rewarding than jumping up on them.”

Help! My dog has separation anxiety!

“Separation anxiety occurs when dogs have a strong attachment to their owner and cannot cope with separation. As dog owners, we often neglect to teach our puppies this skill. Resolving separation anxiety involves gradually teaching your dog to cope with being home alone, starting at short separations that evoke no anxiety and gradually increasing the length of the separations if your dog is coping well. Pairing long lasting treats with your departures can help create a positive association with being left alone. Separation anxiety in dogs is a complex problem which can vary in severity and so it is recommended you seek advice from a behaviourist.”

How do I stop my dog’s constant barking?

Dogs bark for different reasons including boredom, anxiety, as a warning someone is approaching, in response to noise and other dogs, and as an attention-seeking behaviour. The key to reducing excessive barking is to identify why your dog is barking and address the cause. For example, providing a bored dog with some treat dispensing toys or a raw meaty bone is a good way to reduce barking. Similarly, if your dog barks to elicit attention from you and you run to tell him to be quiet, you just rewarded the barking. Ignoring an attention-seeking dog when he’s barking, and rewarding him with attention when he’s quiet, will reduce excessive attention-seeking barking. Again, excessive barking can be a complex problem and seeking assistance from a behaviourist can ensure the best advice and behaviour modification strategy is implemented.

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