While you may take your pet’s bad behavior—such as chewing the couch or eliminating on your bed—personally, keep in mind that they mean no ill will. In fact, the ethics behind pets’ naughty choices are nothing they themselves consider. Still, your pet’s problem behaviors indicate something is amiss, and before you can take the necessary steps to help them stop the naughtiness, you must first understand what your pet’s actions may be signaling. To help you understand your pet’s behavior, our Wales Animal Clinic team is taking on the pet translator role. Read our guide to learn how to identify, interpret, and redirect four common pet behavior problems. 

Problem Pet Behavior #1: Digging

A dog with a digging problem can wreak havoc on your yard—or your carpet if they are digging inside. However, your diggingest dog is not trying to force you to hire a landscaper or update your outdated carpet. 

  • What digging can mean — Dogs dig for a variety of reasons. Digging behavior causes include:
    • Natural instinct — Natural instinct is dogs’ most common reason for digging. Wild dogs dig to look for food, and historically many dogs have been bred to hunt prey below ground. A rabbit or squirrel who has recently visited your yard leaves a scent that may trigger your dog’s inner hunter, causing them to dig.
    • Boredom —  A dog may resort to digging because they lack mental stimulation or physical exercise. Digging is a fun way for a dog to release pent-up energy if they aren’t getting enough physical exercise. 
    • Anxiety   If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, they may dig in an attempt to escape. 
    • Comfort — Your dog may dig to create a comfortable resting spot.  
  • How to correct digging — While digging is natural canine behavior, sacrificing your lawn or carpet is not necessary. Give your dog an appropriate digging spot, such as a sandbox, and reward them when they use that area. If you catch your dog pawing in a place other than the designated digging area, simply redirect them to the appropriate place. 

Problem Pet Behavior #2: Chewing

Countless pets have chewed and destroyed an important paper or an expensive piece of clothing their owners inadvertently left out. Your pet’s chewing can be a frustrating—and costly—problem behavior. However, you cannot completely curb your pet’s chewing. 

  • What chewing can mean — Chewing is another canine natural instinct. Dogs explore the world around them with their mouth, which sometimes gets them in trouble. Chewing can also be used as a means of self-soothing and can signal that your pet needs more mental stimulation or is feeling anxious. 
  • How to correct chewing — All dogs need to chew, and your responsibility is to provide your pooch with safe, acceptable chew toys. Keep personal items off the floor to avoid tempting your dog from chewing and destroying them, and consider crating your dog when you are not home. 

Problem Pet Behavior #3: Excessive vocalization

Vocalization, such as barking and whining, is one way your pet communicates. Of course, vocalization can become a problem if you live in an apartment or have nearby neighbors. In addition, barking and whining can become annoying to you and your family members. 

  • What vocalization can mean — Barking can mean different things, depending on the situation. The most common reasons for barking include:
    • Warning or alert
    • Excitement
    • Playfulness
    • Attention
    • Anxiety
    • Boredom
  • How to correct vocalization — Harness your dog’s barking by teaching them to bark on command—using the word speak—and to stop barking on command—using the word quiet. If your pet is barking because they are fearful or anxious—such as when they see another dog out on a walk—distract them from the stimuli with a treat and the command watch me

Problem Pet Behavior #4: Inappropriate elimination

Owners find their pet’s inappropriate urination and defecation messy and frustrating. While a puppy is likely to have accidents while they are potty training, identifying the cause of this behavior in adult pets is difficult. 

  • What inappropriate elimination can mean — Inappropriate elimination can be a sign of a health condition, such as a urinary tract infection or arthritis, or older pets’ cognitive dysfunction. Nonmedical reasons for the behavior may include:
    • Anxiety
    • Territorial marking 
    • Excitement
  • How to correct inappropriate elimination If your pet has not been properly housebroken, they need basic, consistent training to redirect inappropriate elimination. If your pet’s inappropriate elimination is new, discuss the behavior with your veterinarian to rule out health problems. 

Pet behavior problems can be challenging to manage, but before you pass judgment on your furry friend, remember that some unwanted pet behaviors may indicate underlying medical issues. If you are concerned about changes in your pet’s behavior, contact our Wales Animal Clinic team to rule out medical issues and to access behavior modification resources.