Here are some of the most common dog behavior issues and brief descriptions of common remedies you can use to address the problem. Remember, all dogs can be good dogs, it depends how much effort the owner is willing to put into their "education."
PROBLEM: Inappropriate Elimination
One of the more frustrating manifestations of dog behavior is inappropriate urination and defecation. Such behavior can easily lead to damage within your home, and often results in your dog being unwelcome in the homes of others or in public places. If the dog is older and this is a new behavior, your first action should be to seek advice and assistance from your veterinarian. Your dog's behavior may be as a result of a medical condition, and this must be established first. In the event that the cause is not found to be medical, you must consider the other possible reasons for your dog's inappropriate behavior.
Your dog might easily become overly excited, or may be anxious for some reason, resulting in appropriate urination. Your dog may feel the need to mark his territory, perhaps if there are other dogs within the neighborhood. Your dog may be seeking your attention, and does not know the appropriate way to go about attracting your attention acceptably. Alternative, your dog may simply not have received sufficient potty training in order to behave appropriately.
REMEDY: Puppies, especially those under 12 weeks of age will certainly eliminate inappropriately, and this is to be expected. Potty training from a young age can be undertaken so that this does not become a long term problem. Crate training, again, works wonders. Older dogs, however, may require to undertake behavior modification training to break them of their habit, since they will often need to alter their perception of themselves and of what is acceptable.
PROBLEM: Excessive Barking
Most dogs will whine, howl and bark to some extent. However, excessive barking is a problem which should be addressed. Before you can do so, you need to understand why it is that your dog feels the need to bark in the first place.
There are a number of reasons why your dog may bark excessively. He may be seeking your attention, wanting to play, or may be getting excited. On the other hand, he may be anxious about something, or bored, or may be responding to the sight or smell of another dog.
REMEDY: Patience and consistency are key when teaching your dog to control his excessive barking. Try a stern "NO" or "QUIET," and if that fails, follow with a light spray of water (from a squirt gun or mister) to the face. It gets the dog's attention without hurting him in any way. Given time, your dog will come to understand when barking is inappropriate. You can also teach your dog to "speak" and be "quiet", which has helped many owners overcome this very issue.
All dogs naturally chew on things; it is an inborn tendency. However, left unchecked, excessive chewing which causes damage or destruction can become a bad personality trait and a behavior problem.
Puppies tend to need to chew when they are teething, but older dogs will chew as a result of anxiety, or boredom, or because they need to release excess energy in some way. Additionally, dogs may chew out of curiosity. This is especially true of puppies, who are simply trying to familiarise themselves with new things.
REMEDY: In order to train your dog out of bad chewing habits, make sure that you provide him with the right things for him to chew on. Give him plenty of chew toys, like Nylabones, and keep your own personal items out of reach. When you are away from home, perhaps at work, restrict your dog to a certain area or room of the house where he can cause less destruction if he does chew. When you catch your dog in the act of chewing something he should not be, correct him quickly with a sharp noise or a “NO” command. Take the item away and give him a chew toy instead. Additionally, ensure that your dog gets plenty of exercise, so he does not feel the need to chew as a result of boredom or because he has too much pent up energy.
Another instinctive behavior in dogs is digging. Some breeds of dog, particularly those with a historical connection with hunting, will have a stronger tendency to dig. Cockapoos tend to enjoy digging.
As with other behavior problems, dogs may dig out of anxiety or boredom, but sometimes as a result of fear. They may be trying to escape from something, or may be seeking access to somewhere. Digging may also be done with the intention to hide possessions such as toys or bones. Alternatively, digging may be associated with seeking comfort, perhaps in an attempt to cool down.
REMEDY: It can be frustrating for you if your dog continually digs up your yard, garden, or furniture. If you are able to determine your dog’s reason for digging, you may be able to work on rectifying his behavior. Spending extra time with your dog, playing with him and exercising him more frequently, may result in less digging. Even when his behavior improves, it may be beneficial to set aside a space outside where it is acceptable for your dog to dig, such as a sandbox, and correct him when he digs outside of that area.
PROBLEM: Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is common in many dogs and is manifested in a number of ways. You may find that your dog becomes more vocal, he may also start to chew when he did not chew previously. Although he may have been potty trained, you may find that your dog urinates or defecates inappropriately. Various forms of unusual destruction can result when your dog suffers with separation anxiety. In fact, I know one dog owner whose large dog chewed up the walls of one room while he was out for an hour!
Typical signs of separation anxiety will occur initially when you, the owner are preparing to leave. Your dog will recognise such signs as you reaching for your car keys, or putting on your coat, and will likely become anxious. Any misbehaving as a result of separation anxiety will often occur within the first 15-45 minutes after you leave your dog. Additionally, you may find that your dog will continually follow you and try to make physical contact with you regularly by touching you.
REMEDY: In order to re-train your dog's behavior will require dedication from you as you assist your dog through desensitization and behavior modification exercises. Firstly, don't baby him when it is time to leave! In extreme cases, you dog's behavior may be corrected through the use of medication, but this really should be considered only as a last resort. You can also check out this in-depth article on separation anxiety in cockapoos.
Personally, I recommend crate training from a young age for your puppy to help this and other troubles. Our cockapoo was trained this way, and now as soon as he sees us getting ready he goes to his crate without being told, and doesn't whine or otherwise misbehave. He has water, comfort, and knows it is all part of life. When he goes in to the crate, he gets a treat, too!
Unfortunately, many dog owners encourage the practice of begging, despite the fact that it should be considered to be a bad habit. Rewarding a dog which begs, with food and scraps from the table, can lead to obesity and digestive problems in the future. Your dog begs because he wants food from you. It is often all too easy to give in and hand your dog a treat, thinking that it will be a one off. However, your dog will return repeatedly, knowing that his longing look will result in a reward for him.
REMEDY: If your dog has serious begging issues, make it a habit to confine your dog to another area when you sit down for a meal. He should not be able to stare at you and beg for food while you eat. If your dog demonstrates good behavior throughout your meal, you may find it appropriate to reward him with a special treat once your meal is over.
Some dogs exhibit aggressive tendencies by means of biting, snarling, growling, lunging or showing their teeth. Regardless of their training and upbringing, any dog has the potential to turn aggressive, if so provoked or mistreated. Unfortunately, some dogs are bred specifically with aggression in mind from other dogs with aggressive tendencies. The resultant dog may quickly exhibit bad behavior towards other dogs, other animals and towards people.
REMEDY: Real aggression is a serious problem, and requires particular attention. The first action should be to consult with your veterinarian to consider your dog's health and medical status. If your dog does not have a medical condition which affects his aggression, then seek the assistance of an experience dog trainer. With time, patience and care, aggressive dogs may be retrained and their unacceptable behavior modified.
If you need more advice for aggression issues, please read our aggression training tips and our article on CPA or Canine Possession Aggression.
Another instinctual behavior which many dogs manifest is the need to chase moving things. As a predator, they will chase other dogs, other animals, cars and people. Unrestrained, a habit of chasing things may result in a tragic outcome. Whilst you may not be able to prevent your dog from trying to chase things, you may be able to prevent him from causing injury to himself or to others.
REMEDY: When out walking, especially when near busy highways, keep your dog on a leash at all times. Be aware of your surroundings whilst out walking or playing with your dog. A potential trigger for your dog may be the sight of something like a jogger or another dog which is running to fetch a ball. Make efforts to train your dog to come to you when he is called. Be sure that you are able to get your dog's attention, perhaps by making use of a dog whistle or some other instrument which makes an appropriate noise. Given time, your dog will learn that he must take his directions from you, and if you do not allow chasing, then it is not acceptable behavior for him.
PROBLEM: Jumping Up
Many dogs jump, often to greet people, perhaps to seek attention, and occasionally in an effort to exert dominance. Whilst it may seem endearing behavior in a puppy, a grown jumping dog can easily become annoying and even dangerous, as he can hurt both the people he jumps on and himself.
REMEDY: Responding to a dog which jumps will give him the attention which he is likely seeking. This will not send the message to him that his jumping is wrong. Instead, ignore your dog when he jumps. Do not respond to him, speak to him or touch him. In time, your dog will understand that jumping on you is not a fun activity and does not result in catching your attention. Remember to reward your dog's good behavior when he learns not to jump.
For a more in-depth article on teaching your cockapoo not to jump, read "Jumping Cockapoos, Batman!"
Yet another behavior based in instinct is that of biting. Puppies will bite and nip as a means of become familiar with their environment. Whilst still young, puppies must be taught by their owners that biting is not acceptable behavior and is not permitted.
As a puppy grows into adulthood, he may resort to biting for a number of reasons. He may be fearful or defensive and his natural inclination is to bite. Alternatively, he may be sick or in pain, or might simply be protecting what he perceives to be his property.
REMEDY: Although the bite of some breeds of dog may be more dangerous than others, all responsible dog owners must take the opportunity to train their dog not to bite. While I can't address all forms of biting in this brief article, or all remedies, I will give you some ideas. Socialization, obedience classes, and stern corrections ("NO!") when dog's bite, are all part of teaching a dog better manners. Also, when a dog is trying to get you to play by biting, the best thing is to correct and then ignore your dog for a time. They will learn that play-biting does the opposite of what they want. With time, attention and proper training, the tendency for any dog to bite may be decreased.
For more great tips on correcting cockapoo behavorial issues, please read our free Cockapoo Obedience Training Guide and implement the ideas and methods that have helped us. Also, check out The Cockapoo Owner's Handbook. It is available for e-readers and computers of all kinds, and contains around 150 pages of great tips, "how-to" chapters, and expert information for cockapoo enthusiasts.