Dogs are quite prone to behavioural issues – they’re sensitive creatures and are dependant on their pack, friends and surroundings. Factors such as breed and upbringing can predispose a dog to behavioural issues, and high density living with long owner working hours often doesn’t help.
Separation anxiety, thunderstorm anxiety, aggression, excessive barking and chewing are the most common serious behavioural problems for dogs.
There are a also number of other common but less serious behavioural issues such as jumping up, going to the toilet in the house and begging – although these are often the result of subtle encouragement given by the owners, such as sneaking a treat from the table, or when training hasn’t gone according to plan.
These more minor behaviours can be frustrating an may need to be gently corrected, although I wouldn’t generally consider them to be medical behavioural issues. These issues are usually more easily addressed with gentle training, distraction with treats or chewing toys, and of course not rewarding the behaviour by giving the dog what they want.
Behavioural issues can become a big problem, and once ingrained they can be quite difficult to fix. Many of these issues can be prevented by good socialisation as a puppy, effective training and a strong owner-pet bond. Puppy classes and play dates with friend’s dogs are an excellent way to build confidence and social skills in a young puppy, and effective training will build a foundation of trust and respect and understanding.
But it’s also never too late, and if you do have an adult dog with behavioural issues there is definitely much that can be done. Training, counter-conditioning and positive reward can go a long way, and if you aren’t sure or would like some help I’d highly recommend seeking professional advice – there is an excellent veterinary dog behavioural specialist, Cynthia Smillie, in Hong Kong as well as a number of highly qualified trainers.
Lastly, if training and behavioural therapy seems is not effective enough or we are having some hurdles there are also some very safe and effective medical treatments that can be used in certain cases. Your vet would be more than happy to discuss these medications and if they would be helpful for your dog.
And remember, you can teach an old dog new tricks.