ProCalm Assists With Canine Behavior Problems

Many Canine behavior problems that owner’s experience can be attributed to improper socialization, lack of training, a misunderstanding of normal Canine behavior, placing certain breeds into environments that do not allow for natural stress relief, failure to give our dogs enough exercise, and sadly, abuse. Some behavior problems can be easy to correct, while others are more serious. Issues include excessive barking, chewing, digging, begging, chasing, jumping, inappropriate elimination, phobia to loud noises, separation anxiety, biting, and aggressive behavior. It is important to have a plan for building positive  behaviors in a dog – as a puppy or later on in their life.

Getting Started on the Right Track

It is important to select an appropriate breed of dog based on the environment the dog will be brought into. Many breeds have a special requirement for more space to run and play, herd other animals, and retrieve or hunt objects. Knowing the needs of a dog and determining whether or not their needs fit into a specific lifestyle will go a long way towards eliminating many of the potential Canine behavior problems that may surface along the way.


Familiarizing a puppy with its new surroundings and “new pack members” is especially important. Dogs mature much faster than we think and when we do not teach a young dog the difference between acceptable behavior and natural Canine pack behaviors, they will simply go with their natural instincts to bark, dig, chew, and eliminate anywhere when needed.

Puppy-Proofing the Environment

For puppies, everything is fair game for chewing and eating – to prevent furniture, rugs, shoes, cords, and toys from being ruined, use these tips for behavior training:

  • Safe Zone: Never give puppies the unattended full run of the house. Decide on an area that is safe and easily kept clean and then eliminate any dangerous objects (plants, electrical wires, etc.) that can be chewed on, eaten, or knocked over by an exploring puppy.
  • Provide Safe Toys: Do provide a few safe toys to occupy the time when they are not directly supervised.  Chew toys satisfy a natural need and can help alleviate the pain associated with teething while stimulating their young minds. Toys can also provide relief from stress and boredom that often leads to unwanted behaviors. Swapping out toys every few days will also provide different challenges that may save having to replace expensive items.
  • Crate Training: A crate offers a safe environment for a puppy to retreat to, sleep in, and relieve any stress it may have. Crate training is also a good method of housebreaking a new puppy.
  • Provide Plenty of Exercise: Puppies have energy to spare. Providing them with a supervised way to burn this energy off will go a long way towards gaining a well-behaved pet. Exercise also helps socialize a puppy by introducing it to many new and different environments. If you remain relaxed during this process and provide positive feedback in the manner of praise, the puppy will become more relaxed and learn acceptable behavior around strangers and new objects.  I should also mention that a well-exercised pet will need plenty of rest.
  • Correcting: Redirecting a puppy when they are about to do something unwanted is the best way to correct bad behavior. Hitting, swatting, or vocally scolding a young puppy for attempting to do what is natural (chew, dig, eliminate, bark, etc.) is confusing and can also ruin the “teacher-student” relationship required for normal development. When a dog presents an unwanted behavior, redirect them by providing a toy to play with, move them to a different area, take them outside, or quiet them using a calm voice.

Specific Problem Areas

Excessive Barking: Dogs will be dogs – and most dogs bark, whine, and howl at times!

Dogs bark for many different reasons:

  • To warn, alert, and protect
  • To “speak” to us or other dogs
  • When excited or during play
  • To seek attention and to relieve stress, anxiety, or boredom

If observant enough, the reason for a dog barking can be determined and associated with the different sounds a dog makes. Most trainers use “speak” and “quiet” commands – this process of training a dog when barking is ok and when to be quiet will require being consistent and patient and will be much easier if begun when dogs are young puppies.

Chewing: Chewing is a natural behavior for all dogs. The most common reasons for chewing are:

  • Exploration and learning which objects are easily chewed
  • Relieving teething pain
  • To calm themselves and relieve boredom
  • Separation anxiety

Correcting methods for chewing include making a sharp noise (clap, whistle, or clicker) and replacing the chewed item with a play toy.

Digging: Dogs will instinctively dig for the following reasons:

  • Natural breed instincts (Terriers bred to root critters out of the ground)
  • Nesting behavior
  • Hiding their possessions
  • Escaping or gaining access to an area
  • Boredom, anxiety, or fear
  • Burning off excessive energy

Determining the cause will help develop a method for eliminating the behavior. Do not leave chronic diggers outside without supervision. A well-exercised dog will not need to dig in order to get rid of extra energy. If a dog loves to bury their possessions, do not allow them to have toys outside unless they are supervised.

Begging: In the wild, dogs hunted for food when they were hungry or needed to feed their young. Today, our domesticated dogs rely directly on us to feed them, which can lead to begging.  It seems that they have even developed a look that is hard to resist when they want that extra treat or food from the table. All of the extra love in the form of food has created an obesity problem in dogs.

As head of the household, only let a dog be present while eating if they are quietly lying down. If begging begins, remove the dog to another area of the house. When feeding any dog, I recommend making the dog sit until you give it the command to eat. I use “okay” when they can get their food and then say “good dog” when they obey.

Chasing: When a dog comes tearing out of the driveway towards any moving car, we all experience a brief moment of terror. This is a dog whose natural predatory chase instincts have taken over in a big way. Such dangerous behavior should be immediately addressed using the following guidelines:

Train your dog on a leach not to become overly excited around other dogs, joggers, bicycles, or cars. This can be done by remaining calm and using commands such as “sit” or “stay” when these things are close.

Jumping: Dogs jump up for many reasons – to greet people, exert dominance, or seek attention. In an attempt to end this behavior many methods such as kneeing the dog in the chest, grabbing the dogs’ paws, pushing the dog down, or loudly saying down have been used. All of these are confusing to the dog as it is actually acknowledging their effort to seek attention. A better method requires simply turning away from the dog and ignoring it. When the dog calms down and doesn’t jump up, give the command to “sit” and then reward the dog with praise and possibly a small treat.

Improper Elimination: Training a dog to eliminate only in appropriate places can do a lot for making a pet a welcome member in the home, public places, and the homes of others. It is common for puppies, even when house trained, to have an accident when excited or left too long without being taken out and similarly with senior dogs who may have become incontinent.

Non-medical inappropriate urination and defecation in the house not associated with inadequate housebreaking can be due to:

  • Territorial marking
  • Submissive or excitement urination
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Seeking attention

Inappropriate elimination behavior requires behavior modification. Consulting an animal behaviorist or competent trainer may provide the assistance required to control the issue. Punishment of any kind is not warranted, as it will not correct the behavior.

When unsure about the cause of an adult or senior dog’s sudden change in elimination habits, see a veterinarian to rule out any health problems such as urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes as many of these can easily be treated.

Thunderstorm Phobia: Astraphobia is the fear of thunder and lightning. This is fairly common for many dogs and usually results in their being overwhelmed with fear during a storm. The loud noise of thunder is most likely the cause. Dogs can sense barometric changes and become anxious and reclusive long before the storm arrives – this includes panting, pacing, and whining. Behavioral changes during the storm can escalate to panic leading to inappropriate destructive and elimination behaviors.

Never leave a dog outside during a storm. Provide a comfortable place for the dog like a crate placed in the quietest place in the home. You may also try providing music, using dog pheromones, or placing the dog in a Thunder Shirt designed to minimize anxiety and stress.

Separation Anxiety: Separation anxiety is a disorder that causes dogs to panic at the idea of being left home alone.  The panic is so overwhelming dogs will sometimes bark, inappropriately urinate and defecate, and chew or mutilate items within the household.

True separation anxiety is stressful for both dogs and their owners.  Typical obedience training will not prevent separation anxiety, nor will it work to decrease the anxiety. Treatment will require behavior modification and desensitization programs that gradually let a dog get used to being left alone. Certain medications may also support overall efforts to alter the behavior.

Biting: Mouthing and biting is not acceptable. It is important to understand that any dog is capable of biting, regardless of breed or size. Bite prevention and awareness should be part of all dog owners training, as even the nicest dog can snap or bite when injured or afraid.

Aggressive Behavior: Growling, snarling, showing teeth, lunging, and biting are all signs of aggressive behavior. All dogs have the potential to become aggressive, regardless of breed or history. Dogs that have been abused by their owners are especially susceptible to becoming overly aggressive. Aggression is one of those conditions that unless very experienced, owners should not try to resolve on their own. A qualified trainer or animal behaviorist can determine the cause of aggression and devise a plan to eliminate aggressive triggers.

Dog Fighting: Knowing the difference between dog play, acts of dominance, and when dogs are really intending to do harm to each other can be an important key in preventing a fight and the damage that may ensue. Fights occur for many reasons: play can escalate into a fight if one dog becomes too aggressive.  Fights over food or territory can occur as well as when a dog believes it is protecting its owner. Never physically get in the middle of two dogs that are fighting! Remain as calm as possible and try spraying them with water, using a loud noise or throwing a large blanket over them to break their focus.

By Clayton Bolinger
April 18, 2024