How to change your dog’s behaviour

We love our dogs; paws, flaws and all. But certain behaviours, which we may consider a problem, can be a sign that your dog is unhappy.

Research from the latest PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report found that more than three-quarters of dog owners would like to change at least one behaviour shown by their dog.

PDSA Vet Nurse Joanne Wright gives her top tips to help with these challenging issues.

Joanne said: “Challenging behaviours develop for many reasons; dogs can be fearful of something, lack training or feel bored.

“Many behaviours develop over time, initially starting with small, almost unnoticeable acts. With a tiny puppy, things like jumping up can be tolerable but once fully grown, a large dog doing this can be undesirable.”

Common behaviours that owners may like to change include:

  • jumping up at strangers
  • lead pulling
  • excessive barking
  • destroying things
  • aggression towards other pets or people
  • noise phobias, such as fireworks

Joanne added: “Positive socialisation from birth is vital to a puppy’s development into a happy pet.

“It gets them used to the world they’ll be living in, helping them to cope and adjust to what’s acceptable in society.

“Punishing ‘bad’ behaviour rarely addresses the problem and can lead to anxiety, which can actually make their behaviour worse.

“Reward-based training teaches good behaviour and helps strengthen the bond with your dog.

“Teaching simple commands such as ‘sit’, ‘come’ and ‘leave’, will be invaluable throughout your dog’s life.

Dogs respond well to repetition, so when training use short, five minute sessions every day using healthy treats or a favourite toy or game to reward them when they get it right.

An ABTC (Animal Behaviour and Training Council) accredited training class will provide a safe and friendly environment, where you’ll receive help in your dogs’ education.

“It’s also important to teach children how to act around dogs and how to read their body language, as dogs will display subtle signs that they’re unhappy, which children may not pick up on.

All pets have the ability to show aggression if they are fearful, or if their warnings aren’t noticed.  So children will always need adult supervision when around pets.”

If you’re struggling to improve problematic behaviour, PDSA recommends seeking professional help. Your vet can rule out any illness or injury.

They may also refer you to an ABTC-accredited behaviourist to find out how to manage behaviour and any underlying stress or anxiety to improve your dog’s welfare.

Joanne said: “Quick fixes don’t usually exist. Repetition, consistency and support will help you overcome these issues, and improve your pet’s life to help them with their behaviour, which can be very rewarding for both your dog and you.”

PDSA is on a mission to improve pet well-being through prevention, education and treatment.

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