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50 Of The Worst Dog Behaviours

And, Who Is Largely Responsible For Them, The Dog Or The Owners!

Meg Harris 


Dogs will be dogs, people will be people, and sometimes, the two will get it each other into trouble!

This list of naughty, bad, and dangerous dog behaviours was compiled from my 25 years of experience as a dog trainer and behaviour specialist.

Most of these problems are caused by a combination of owners and dogs, some are more owner-based, and some are dog instincts gone wrong.  “who’s bad” in the list will identify which is which!

Hopefully you won’t recognize too many of these behaviours as things happening in your own home, but if you do, you’re not alone!

The good news is you don’t have to live in dog chaos, and dogs don’t have to live with the confusion and misunderstanding that leads to bad behaviour!  All of these problems can be prevented, or solved with the help of a good dog trainer or behaviour specialist.

The dog would make the call if he could; none of them want to be bad.  But, as the ones with opposable thumbs, it is up to us to be pro-active in the process that is raising a balanced, happy and polite dog.  You, your family, your friends, your neighbours, and the dog will all be glad you did!


Most Dangerous Dog Behaviours:

Dangerous Either To People, Other Animals, Or The Dog Itself.

CHILD AGRESSION

Growling and snapping at children are warnings that should be well-heeded by children and their parents.  Dogs who fear, mistrust or do not like kids will defend themselves in the only way they can, with their teeth. 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs are incredibly tolerant of children, others are not.  It is up to owners to work with dogs who have issues with kids, to solve them.  It is up to parents to ensure kids are respectful of dogs, whether they are child-aggressive or not!

FEAR AGGRESSION

The best defense is a good offense.  A frightened dog can be unpredictable and very aggressive. 

Who's Bad? Owner/Dog

Fear aggression is a defense mechanism.  Fear of people is often caused by people; whether it is or isn't, it is up to owners to work with fearful dogs to bring them to a confident state.  It is often a complex and challenging issue, requiring professional guidance.

FOOD AGGRESSION

Like a dog with a bone, as they say.

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Food aggression is a dominant and potentially very dangerous behaviour.    In some cases, it may stem from a dog experiencing desperate hunger at some point in its life, but often people have done nothing to cause it.  Dominance is rarely one-dimensional, and should be recognized and addressed by owners on all fronts.  Food aggressive dogs need positive leadership work and often require professional help.

POSSESSION/TOY AGGRESSION

Dogs do not instinctively like to share.  A dog who has not been taught otherwise, may vigorously defend his toys, bed, etc. 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Possessive aggression is a dominance issue.  Some dogs may never go there; those who do, need positive leadership work.

TERRITORIAL AGGRESSION

Territorial aggression comes in varying degrees.  Some dogs may bark at someone coming in to their territory, others may growl, charge, or even attack in extreme cases. 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Guarding/protecting territory is an innate behaviour in many, if not most dogs.  Some breeds/types are more inclined to be territorial than others.  It is up to owners to know what they have, and to manage and train the dog accordingly.

OVER-PROTECTIVENESS

A dog who is over-protective of his owner will often react to anyone coming near their owner, friend or foe.  The reaction may be limited to barking or growling, or may extend to lunging or biting. 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs will never become overly protective of their owners, others will if it is allowed or encouraged.  It is up to the owner to ensure they have the leadership role, and guide their dogs’ behaviour accordingly.  Often this behaviour is knowingly or unknowingly encouraged by the owner.

DOG AGGRESSION

Dog to dog aggression is the result of dogs not being well or properly socialized with other dogs.  Dog fights can be very dangerous for the dogs, and for the people trying to break them up.

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs are great with other dogs, some dogs are innately more dominant and a few are aggressive.  It is not necessarily owner-caused.  Dogs that are not neutered are more likely to be dog aggressive, as are some of the more dominant breeds.  It is up to the owners to ensure dogs are carefully and properly socialized at all stages of their lives.

BOLTING ON LEAD

Bolting while on lead can happen very quickly!  The element of surprise combined with the strength of a big dog can easily pull even a strong person off their feet; dangerous for the dog if he bolts in to traffic, and for the walker who face plants! 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs who, for the most part, have good leash manners will suddenly bolt after a cat or squirrel or something else that grabs their attention.  Often this is because intense prey drives have been triggered.  It is up to the owner to ensure that they work through this inclination with their dogs, teaching them that their drives and instincts may not overcome their manners.

CHASING BICYCLES/SKATEBOARDS

The dog and the bike or board rider are in jeopardy with this behaviour! 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs will show no interest in bicycles or skateboards.  Others, with strong prey drives, will instinctively want to go after them.  It is up to owners to teach dogs when and where to use their prey drives.

BARGING PAST PEOPLE ON STAIRS/IN DOORWAYS

Wiping people out on stairs can cause serious injuries, to falling people and squashed dogs!

Who's Bad? Owner

Dogs who barge past or through people on stairs or in doorways mean no harm.  They don’t know they could seriously hurt you.  They do it because they are excited, they can, and they don’t know any better.  It is simply a matter of basic training, and teaching dogs to be mindful of people and their space.

AGGRESSION TOWARDS STRANGERS

“He’s fine once he knows you.”   They should add, “but, for now, you’re screwed!”

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs show no aggression towards people, others will when they are in protect mode.  It is up to owners to teach their dogs how they wish them  to react to strangers.  Often aggression towards strangers is knowingly or unknowingly encouraged by owners.  Strong positive leadership and training are needed.

CHASING CARS/ TIRE BITING

Many dogs have met their maker with this behaviour!

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Chasing cars and tire biting are generally symptoms of prey drive gone wrong.  It is not generally owner-caused.  It is, however, up to the owner to teach the dog not to do it.

BOLTING THROUGH OPEN DOORS

Bolting through doors to escape is a very dangerous habit for dogs.  They may run in to traffic, or get spooked and run blind wherever they are.

Who's Bad? Owner

Many dogs who don’t get enough freedom will go for it whenever they can.  Owners must teach dogs about boundaries and not bolting out doors.

RUNNING AWAY

A dog out on its own in the world can get hurt or killed in any number of ways, or cause damage or havoc to others.

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs are more inclined to run off than others.  Un-neutered males are likely to wander; beagles and other hounds go hunting; huskeys need to travel.  It is up to the owner to ensure their dogs do not run off unsupervised.  Safe environments, precautions and training are required.

EXCESSIVE BARKING

The one dog in the neighbourhood, barking its head off whenever it is outside.  It seems its owners must be deaf, but drives everyone else to distraction!

Who's Bad? Owner

Excessive barking is usually a question of a bored or frustrated dog.  He needs more exercise, more mental stimulation and some training.  Be ticked at the owner, not the dog!

FEIGNING DEAFNESS

It’s amazing how a dog can hear a kibble bag being opened 3 doors down, but can’t hear you bellowing at it from 20 feet away!  

Who's Bad? Owner

A dog who ignores his owner does not feel the need to listen because he does not see his owner as his leader.  He needs some positive leadership work and some obedience training to be sure he understands.

PULLING ON LEAD

The old “who’s walking who?” still applies to many dogs and people! 

Who's Bad? Owner

Leash manners are not something a dog could know by instinct.  It is up to the owner to teach the dog how to walk properly.

NOT HOUSE TRAINED

“Honey, your dog left another present in the living room!”  

Who's Bad? Owner

Some dogs are a bit more difficult to house train than others, but it is up to the owner to be consistent and persistent until the dog fully understands.  Small dogs may seem more difficult to house train, but that is partly because people are not quite as offended by having to clean up after them, so tend not to put as much effort in!  It can be done, with patience and diligence, it can be done!

JUMPING UP ON PEOPLE

“No. No jump. Off. Down. Sit. No. Off. Sit. Down. No jump!  Just ignore him!”  …and yet you are still wearing the dog, muddy footprints and all.  

Who's Bad? Owner

Jumping up is a simple training issue.  If one method of teaching the dog not to jump isn’t working, it is probably lacking clarity.  Try another way.

COUNTER SURFING

“I could have sworn I left the roast right there!”  …as the dog slinks out of the kitchen licking his lips.

Who's Bad? Owner

If a behaviour produces a happy result, the dog will do it again.  It is up to the owner to ensure the dog never scores by counter surfing, and to be vigilant in supervision to block and re-direct the behaviour.

GETTING INTO GARBAGE

Rising in the morning, heading for the coffee pot, and finding yourself ankle deep in garbage… sound familiar? 

Who's Bad? Owner

If a dog finds good things in the garbage and there is no one there to suggest he not do that, he would be stupid not to try!

DIGGING

Back half white, front half black, grinning from ear to ear!

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Digging is an innate behaviour for dogs, so it is not a lack or training that would cause the dog to do it.  It is up to us however, to teach the dog when and where it is acceptable to dig.

STEALING/CHEWING KID’S TOYS

Batter up, and Bowser’s got the ball!  “MOOOOM!”   The next day it might be “DAAAAD, look what Bowser did to Mr. Teddy!!!”

Who's Bad?  Owner

Kid’s toys look an awful lot like puppy toys, so we can’t expect the puppy to know the difference.  It is up to us to supervise and teach the puppy what he may and may not play with, keeping the kid’s toys out of reach the rest of the time.

UP ON FURNITURE

Every morning there is a perfect ring of dog hair on the sofa!

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Dogs do like their creature comforts, so even a dog who has never been allowed on furniture may sneak up when he can.  Owners have to be consistent about whether dogs are allowed up or not.

BEGGING FOR FOOD

Staring, drooling, sitting pretty… makes it hard for people to enjoy their meal. 

Who's Bad? Owner

Dogs beg because it works.  Even if it only works once in a while, they will beg every time.  Never feed your dog from your plate or the dining table, and they will not beg.  It is that simple!


MOST EXPENSIVE DOG BEHAVIOURS:

BITING PEOPLE/ CAUSING LAW SUITS

In this day and age, even a minor or deserved dog bite can bring about a law suit, let alone a serious bite that could have been prevented.

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Dog bites rarely come out of nowhere.  While some dogs may never show any inclination to bite, most will under the right or wrong circumstances.  It is up to the owner to be aware and in control at all times, and to keep people and the dog safe.

CHEWING CAR INTERIORS

This is a mistake most people will only make once!  Chewing dogs can do an incredible amount of damage to car interiors, silently and in a very short time!  (sometimes even while you’re driving!) 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Dogs may be destructive for many reasons including nervousness, boredom, separation anxiety, etc.  Whatever the reason, the solution is simple for owners, supervision or a safe place, i.e. a crate.   Chew toys/bones, etc. should also be provided for the dog.  Owners should also work with their dogs to alleviate the cause of the destructive behaviour.

SELF-INFLICTED VET BILLS I.E. EATING INEDIBLES

Any vet can tell you tales of the bizarre and amazing things they have had to surgically remove from dogs’ stomachs!  It is always risky surgery to remove the objects, and can cost thousands of dollars!

Who's Bad? Dog

Some dogs will eat anything!  It can be very difficult to prevent, as they can grab and swallow things very quickly!   These snacks may be tennis balls, cell phones, socks, rocks, or anything else they can manage to swallow.  The solution lies in supervision, training, and pet insurance!

CHEWING FURNITURE

For as long as there have been puppies and furniture legs, there have been expensive interactions between the two!  And many, many sofas have been the victims of bored, unsupervised dogs!

Who's Bad? Owner

Dogs don’t deliberately target expensive things!  It is up to owners to ensure that puppies or dogs who chew are supervised, or in a safe environment, such as their crate.  Chew toys, bones, etc. should be provided for the puppy or dog, and training will be needed to teach the dog what it should and should not chew on.


MOST EMBARRASSING DOG BEHAVIOURS:

HUMPING PEOPLE

We have all seen it; a dog hopping on to someone’s leg and wailing away!  It is comically embarrassing, both for the owner of the leg, and the owner of the dog! 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Humping, outside of a sexual scenario is common, natural, dominant behaviour.  While it is true that some dogs would never dream of humping a person, it is always up to the owners to teach their dogs to be respectful of people.

HUMPING OTHER DOGS

Natural for dogs, awkward for their owners!

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

This dog to dog behaviour is a completely natural way for dogs to establish dominance.  There is a time and a place for it.  A dog who tries to hump all other dogs though is overly dominant, and this behaviour is likely to cause dog fights.  Un-neutered males are more likely to assert themselves this way, though neutered males and female dogs will also use humping to establish dominance.  The owner needs to teach him not to try to dominate other dogs.

CROTCH SNIFFING

Whether you are the one trying to push the dog out from between your legs, without drawing attention to it, or you’re the owner of the dog, crotch sniffing dogs cause many embarrassing moments! 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs will poke their noses between people’s legs just because they are the right height and its there, or because they always get a reaction when they do. Others will take an excessive interest.  It is natural, as they use scent to explore, but it implies that they are treating people like they would another dog.  Excessive crotch sniffing should be addressed by the owner as a training issue.

BLATANT DEFIANCE

Dogs always seem to wait for a crowd to look us straight it the eye and say “no, I will not come”, or “no, I will not stop barking”! 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs are tougher than others, and will make their owners work for their leadership role every single day.  It is up to the owners to do that work every single day, or they will have a dog who will look right at them, understand what is being asked, and just say no!

EATING DOG POOP

The gross factor of dogs eating dog poop is undeniable!

Who's Bad? Dog

Dogs eating dog poop is a common problem.  It is unhealthy, and quite revolting, especially when they want to come and give you a kiss afterwards.  Why some dogs do it is uncertain.  Some believe it is a nutrient deficit, others believe it is habit learned from their mothers’ cleaning up after them, or learned from other dogs.  Owners must be diligent in preventing the behaviour, keeping yards clean etc., and work on teaching the “leave it” command.

REFUSING TO BUDGE ON WALKS

When you see a dog, large or small, sitting on a sidewalk, or lying down, and a grown person pulling and pushing, unable to make it budge, you can’t help but feel their embarrassment! 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Planting, or refusing to budge on walks is a controlling behaviour some dogs resort to on lead.  It is a relatively easy problem to solve, requiring some training and positive leadership work from the owner.

HUMPING TOYS

“Mommy, Daddy, what is Fluffy doing to his teddy bear?”  Need I say more?

Who's Bad? No One 

Humping toys is a healthy outlet for dominant urges.  It may be funny for some, embarrassing for others, but it is harmless!


MOST IRRITATING DOG BEHAVIOURS:

YAPPING

That one dog at the dog park, or running around the swimming pool that just will not stop yapping; it can become like fingernails on a chalk board! 

Who's Bad? Owner

Yapping dogs have learned to express themselves that way.  It is the owner’s job to teach the dog that it is unacceptable.

LITTLE DOGS WITH BIG BAD ATTITUDES:

Spoiled little dogs being cooed over and picked up, while getting away with murder; only their parents could love them. They drive the rest of us nuts! 

Who's Bad? Owner

Little dogs behaving badly do so not because they are little, but because their owners do not teach them otherwise.  Little dogs are still dogs and need to be raised well and trained just as big dogs do.

HYPER-ACTIVITY

Throwing the ball for the dog the first 10 times was fun, the next 100 times were not so much fun, and now I’ve had enough! 

Who's Bad? Owner

Hyper-active dogs can drive anyone crazy!  But it is not their fault.  These dogs need outlets to burn off steam.  They need sufficient exercise and mental stimulation to allow them to relax when it is time to relax.  It  is up to the owner to ensure the dogs’ needs are met.  When they are, these dogs can easily learn to be calm and polite.

OBSESSIVE LICKING

At first it seems sweet that the dog wants to give you kisses; then you realize it is giving you a full tongue bath and you can’t stop it!  

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Obsessive licking is a nervous/controlling behaviour some dogs develop.  It is not owner-caused per say, but it is up to the owner to address the cause and to teach the dog not to frantically lick people, or themselves.

MARKING TERRITORY

Your dinner guests and their dog leave, and you realize the dog has peed on the corners of all of your furniture!  Or, you have just had your car detailed and the neighbours’ dog comes and pee-s on your tires, again!

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Marking territory is a natural dog behaviour.  Marking excessively or in inappropriate places is a dominant behaviour.  It is up to owners to ensure they teach the dog when and where marking is acceptable.


MOST DIFFICULT DOG BEHAVIOURS: TO STOP OR CORRECT

OCD BEHAVIOURS I.E. SHADOW CHASING

If you have ever seen a dog with truly obsessive behaviours,  such as shadow chasing or spinning, it goes from being funny to sad very quickly.  They get stuck in a mental gear and they just can’t stop it.  

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Obsessive behaviours can seem to appear out of no-where and are often not owner-caused.  Initial owner reactions, however, can often solidify or stop the behaviours.  Most dogs who develop OCD type behaviours suffer from anxiety/nervousness, often caused by lack of exercise and leadership.  Professional help will probably be needed.

EXTREME PREY DRIVES (I.E. CHASING/KILLING CATS/SQUIRRELS)

Most dogs have some level of prey drive in them; the desire to chase things that move.  For some it is an instinctive need that can over-ride their better judgment and basic training.

Who's Bad? Dog

Some breeds and types of dogs are bred and born with extreme prey drives, so they are not owner-caused.  They do need to be owner managed; positive leadership and training will be the difference between problem behaviour and good behaviour.   Professional help may be needed.

SEPARATION ANXIETY

Dogs are pack animals, and for some the prospect of being left alone, even for short periods is overwhelming and causes varying degrees of anxiety, from worry to absolute panic. 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Separation anxiety is not always owner caused and can be a challenging issue to fix.  It is often made worse by mismanagement.  Professional help is advised.

EXCESSIVE WHINING

People don’t want to listen to whiney people, or whiney dogs.  

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Some dogs are more vocal than others.  Whining is often more difficult to stop than barking because it can be subtle, and comes in varying degrees. It can range from soft whimpering to loud whines of complaint or excitement. Often owners ignore it until it is extreme, which makes it impossible for the dog to learn not to do it.


FUNNY WHEN SOMEONE ELSE’S DOG IS DOING IT:

PEE-ING ON PEOPLE

Some dogs, in some circumstances will lift their leg on people!  This generally leads to dry cleaning bills and a thousand embarrassed apologies by the owner, along with gales of snickers and laughter from anyone looking on!

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

This is a dominant behaviour.  Owners need to provide constructive leadership and teach the dog to be respectful of people.

ATTACKING VACCUUM CLEANERS ETC.

Sometimes it is hard to tell whether it is a game for the dog, or he feels he is attacking a predator.  Either way, it is funny the first few times! 

Who's Bad? Owner

This is a herding and controlling behaviour that can be easily rectified with a little training.  Owners often laugh at the behaviour initially, encourage it, and don’t try to fix it until it is extreme or becomes inconvenient.

HERDING PEOPLE

This can range from biting pant legs, to nipping feet, ankles and bottoms!  Even small puppies can make grown people dance with this behaviour! 

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

While some dogs do not ever try to herd people, herding breeds often will.   Many other dogs will try to control where people go at one time or another.  This is an attempt at dominance that should be addressed with positive leadership and training.  Often it is ignored or laughed at until it is extreme, i.e. the dog starts nipping or biting to control where you are going.

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

Dogs love to steal things and run, or turn the “come” command into a game.  Very funny to watch unless you’re the one trying to catch the dog!  

Who's Bad? Dog/Owner

Not letting people catch them, is a great game to dogs!  It is the one time in their day when they are in total control.  It is owner-caused because it is so easy to prevent; a little basic training and problem solved.

ROLLING IN DEAD OR SMELLY THINGS

A walk on the beach is not complete for a dog, without a roll in dead fish!

Who's Bad? Dog

Dogs love to roll in nasty smelling things; it is hunting instinct (like camouflage to their prey).  It is not owner-caused at all, and quite difficult to prevent!  Fortunately it is also harmless; stinky but harmless. 

…and one doe-eyed look and the wag of a tail can make it all worth while, erasing all of the above from our memories, and melting our hearts in a way that only a dog can!


The next logical question is, “how do i fix the problem?” most of these behaviour problems can be solved.

Each dog, person and circumstance is different, which means there are too many variables for blanket solutions to be effective.

To address your specific needs, contact either a dog trainer or behaviour specialist, depending on the problem you have.   Be sure to choose someone who is familiar with the issues you are having and confident in their ability to help you; someone whose methods are positive and make sense to you.

Solving these problems is as much about people training as dog training, so you will want to choose someone you like and work well with, and be ready to do the work! Many of the listed behaviours fall beyond the scope of obedience/ training classes, and are best addressed on a one on one basis, in the environment in which the behaviours occur.

Whatever it takes, it is our responsibility to show our mis-behaving dogs another way; a way that doesn’t earn them top billing in the worst dog behaviours list!


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