How to Deal With Common Dog Behavior Problems, According to Vets

  • Insider asked veterinarians for their top tips on solving common problems dog owners face.
  • Giving your dog a chew toy can prevent him from gnawing at your furniture and clothing.
  • You can get your dog to stop jumping on people by rewarding them when they don’t.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Pets can make life more fun and active, but being a dog owner often presents a unique set of challenges.

Insider asked veterinarians to share their best solutions to common problems dog owners face.

If your dog wakes you early in the morning, try changing his routine

Rebecca Greenstein, chief vet and practice owner at Kleinburg Veterinary Clinic, told Insider that dogs that wake their owners too early in the morning may have to adjust their routine.

“If your healthy adult dog gets up hours before your alarm clock, they may be going to bed too early,” said Greenstein. “Try moving him to bed later and increasing physical activity during the day.”

Keep in mind that young puppies with smaller bladders often have to go to the bathroom at night, and older dogs may struggle with an underlying medical condition that makes them more restless than usual.

By dividing leftover leftovers, you can teach your dog to beg or steal food from the table

Dog eats

You should not give your dog any leftover food.

Bohemia / Shuttershock

Greenstein said owners who give their dogs scraps of food may actually train them to beg.

“Dogs naturally do not know what is theirs and what is theirs,” Greenstein told Insider. “But when you beg or whine for food, you are inadvertently teaching your dog that begging works.”

She said pet owners need to be clear from the start that only people can eat off the table. You shouldn’t use leftovers as a treat or in response to whining.

Dogs that pull on a leash can teach you to walk calmly with proper praise

Dog on a leash

You can also use a leash trainer.

Vasil Dakov / Shuttershock

Sarah Wooten, a veterinarian who works for Pumpkin Pet Insurance, told Insider that dogs that pull on a leash can be trained to walk calmly.

“Dogs do this because they haven’t been taught how to be good,” she said. “Try a leash trainer that will turn your dog’s nose towards you when he pulls.”

When your dog walks calmly, praise him and give him a treat. Wooten said that at some point they will learn that pulling doesn’t work, and appropriate behavior deserves your affection.

If your dog hates walking in the rain, use praise or treats to create a positive association

Some dogs seem to hate going outside in wet weather, but spreading treats and affection can help.

“Try using treats and praise from a young age when you take your dog out in the rain,” Greenstein said. “Make sure they’re wrapped up and keep them under an umbrella or in a protected area.”

Greenstein recommended rewarding your dog with a treat when you dress him up for bad weather to create a positive association with going outside in the rain.

Dogs that howl and whine when staying home alone can suffer from separation anxiety

Dog is waiting in front of the door

You can talk to your veterinarian about how to reduce your pet’s anxiety.

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Leslie Brooks, veterinarian and consultant at betterpet, told Insider that dogs that bark and whine when left alone usually show symptoms of separation anxiety.

Brooks said the best way to stop this behavior is to work with your veterinarian to find out what your pet is doing while you are away and how you can reduce their anxiety.

“Make sure to film your behavior with a camera when you are away,” she said. “You can also give them a toy with a very special treat to distract them, play soft music, or keep the TV on.”

Dogs with strong nerves can benefit from calming supplements or anxiety medication, but these should only be used under veterinary supervision.

You can stop your dog from jumping on people by rewarding them when they don’t

Some dogs like to jump up when excited, but this behavior can be dangerous for the elderly or young children.

Wooten said that one can stop jumping by catching a dog’s paws with your hands and squeezing them gently while lifting them up.

“If your dog pulls away, let go of him and give him praise,” she told Insider. “That will teach them that jumping up is not fun and that they will enjoy staying on the ground.”

Solid exercise can help keep your dog from chewing on furniture or clothing

Dog chewing shoe

You shouldn’t let your dog chew on your clothes, even while playing.

iVangelos / Shuttershock

Consistent correction is the best way to protect your belongings from chewing.

“If your dog starts chewing on something he shouldn’t, give him a resounding ‘no’ and praise him when he stops and looks at you,” said Wooten.

It is important that you never let your dog tug at clothing or give him old clothes as toys during play sessions, as your pet can chew on some pieces of cloth but others may not be confusing to them.

Instead, Wooten suggested giving your pup a chew toy to play with.

Supervise limited contact times if your dog is not getting along with other pets in the household

Veterinarian Daniel Levin, owner of Embassy Lakes Animal Hospital, told Insider that some dogs in the same household don’t get along right away due to anxiety or behavioral issues like aggression.

“Limited and monitored contact times that gradually increase can give time for adjustment,” said Levin. “However, owners should know that some dogs never accept each other.”

If you are considering adopting or grooming a dog, it is a good idea to allow your current pets to meet their potential roommate so you can observe how they interact with one another.

Consistent potty training and frequent toilet breaks can prevent your pet from having accidents around the house

“Accidents in the home are either due to poor potty training or a medical problem,” Levin said. “If a thorough examination shows no problems, more training is required.”

Medical problems like kidney stones or urinary tract infections could be the cause of this problem, but if your dog is young, regular potty training and frequent toilet breaks should help him learn not to relieve himself indoors.

Find ways to distract your dog from eating things he finds on the ground outdoors

Dog with treats

You can give your dog treats to keep them from eating other things on the floor.

Alexandr Jitarev / Shuttershock

Dogs are naturally curious and have a strong sense of smell, so Brooks told Insider that they lick and chew things to explore the world.

“To stop this behavior, you can use a wicker muzzle so they can’t eat things outside or give them something else to hold in their mouth like a toy or stick that they love,” Brooks said.

She added that taking outdoor treats can also be helpful to distract your dog when he starts eating something on the floor.

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