a black labrador looks towards the camera whilst resting his head on a Blue Cross staff member's knee

What to do if your dog has a behaviour problem

Each dog is an individual and every single one has their own personality quirks. It’s what we love about our dogs! But what should you do if your dog’s behaviour becomes a problem?

Just eight per cent of people have sought pet behaviour advice from qualified behaviourists. And with the lockdown bringing less access to vets and official pet trainers, we’re worried that people are turning to the wrong sources when seeking advice. For example, 22 per cent have taken advice from YouTube channels and TV programmes.

The support you’ll need will depend on the type of behaviour problem you’re experiencing. 

Support with dog training issues 

Every owner has their own expectations of how they wish their dog to behave, and a limit to what they find acceptable. Some owners are perfectly happy to allow their pet to relax on the sofa or dig a few holes in the garden, but other owners would be shocked at the very idea. Common problems that can usually be resolved through training and consistency include:

  • jumping up
  • pulling on the lead
  • running off and not responding to recall
  • not understanding your house rules, for example jumping up on the sofa when you’d rather they use their bed

Some behaviours that are a completely normal part of a puppy’s development include: 

Common behaviour problems in puppies and adult dogs include:

Help from a qualified dog trainer can really help to manage or resolve the problem. If you have tried to resolve your pet’s problem through training and you’re not seeing any improvement, speak to a qualified behaviourist.

Support with serious dog behaviour problems

Serious behaviour problems generally need professional support to help resolve them. These may include:

  • aggression to people, dogs or other animals
  • separation anxiety
  • noise phobias
  • compulsive behaviours

What to do if you’re worried about your dog’s behaviour

  1. If your dog’s behaviour has changed, book an appointment with your vet. Pain is a common reason why your dog’s behaviour may have changed (especially if your dog has suddenly shown aggression) and a medical issue may be the cause. 
  2. If your vet rules out a medical condition as the cause, they will refer you to a qualified behaviourist who can help with your pet’s behaviour issue.

Problems are easier to solve when you seek help early as a dog’s behaviour can become worse the longer an issue goes unresolved. We recommend contacting a qualified behaviourist or trainer through your vet or the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC).

— Page last updated 06/10/2023