Dogs are man’s and woman’s best friends but some have really bad habits. Take a step back. Many out-of-control dogs can learn to abandon unhealthy behaviors and follow their leaders. Sadly, frustration can drive some pet parents to relinquish a pet they truly love. “Rehoming”, whether to a new family, a shelter, or a foster home is usually a bad idea because it triggers worsening anxiety, ultimately making many of these dogs unadoptable.

Dogs who jump on people, chew things up, or bolt out the door can be hard to manage. Obedience training and lots of exercise can help but that’s only part of the answer. Many act-out because they don’t get enough social contact with other dogs.

A free-living canine social group is a great organizational model for domestic dogs. Leaders signal their subordinates in order to acknowledge good behavior. They may completely ignore in response to bad behavior. The top dog conducts all interactions on her terms. Some of these canine-specific principles are inconsistent with our egalitarian human mores but dogs are members of a rather different species. Some of their rules are different. They are not little people in furry suits.

If your dog is pesky he needs to be ignored when he bugs you. When a quick glance indicates a calming emotional state you should reinforce – very quietly. Have plenty of chew toys but keep most of them squirreled away so you can rotate them daily. Avoid corrections for an attention-seeking dog because he would regard your response as a reward. Give praise and treats for calm behavior and practice basic obedience. Require your dog to work for what he wants. Nothing in life should be free. He’ll respond better if you speak his language and treat him more like a dog.

Dogs who annihilate the home when left alone are a whole different creature. These boys and girls may be scared witless as they watch their beloved leader prepare to leave. Antianxiety medications are necessary for success but you will need individual guidance on teaching your Nervous Nelly to enjoy her alone time. You’ll want her so focused on extracting her sustenance from food-dispensing toys that she ignores you as you head out the door. Search “Separation Anxiety” on my website for several articles I’ve written on this problem.

Aggression is certainly the most unsettling of behavioral symptoms. To get our arms around this challenge it will be critically important to understand why it’s happening. Many dogs simply need an escape route when they get frightened. Those who strike out at unfamiliar people and dogs can do much better with the security of a head halter and, in some cases, behavior medications. Punishment and dominance routines like alpha rolls never work with biting dogs. Scaring them even more may drive them into self-preservation mode. You don’t want your dog believing he has to fight you to survive.