“Help – I think I have a canine hooligan!”

There comes a time in most dog owner’s lives when they worry about their dog’s behaviour. Most usually it is when they become a teenager and they stop being a cute and cuddly puppy who loves everyone, and they start to look at life as an inexperienced and hormonal adult! There is a good reason why most of the dogs who are given into rescue centres are between 6-18 months of age (and if you ask them, many parents wish there was an option to rehome their human teenager too from time to time!).

No matter what your dog’s age however, if you have concerns that your dog may be getting unruly or out of control, don’t panic… there are lots of things you can do about it.

What to do if you think your dog is aggressive

First do an assessment of your dog’s daily routine to make sure they are getting what they need both as a dog and for their individual breed. Dogs need regular daily exercise, social company, food and water, and to feel safe and secure. So if you are not giving your dog enough exercise, if you regularly leave them alone for hours on end, and you don’t give them your time when you are at home, you can quite reasonably expect problems.

Then have a think about what your dog was originally bred to do. Some of our most popular breeds were developed to work all day every day – such as the gundogs, the pastoral dogs, the working dogs and many of the terrier breeds. For them a quick walk round the block and then being ignored all day is going to be their idea of hell – and you’ll very quickly have a bored and frustrated canine – whose behaviour will reflect that.

This isn’t just about giving them more physical exercise. Yes they are going to need well over an hour a day every day but if you spend your walks desperately trying to tire them out, all you are going to do is make them fitter!  

Instead think about what their original job entailed – was it retrieving things, hunting things out with their nose, digging for things, chasing things… and this will give you some good ideas of how to enrich their lives and make sure that they don’t just get exercise but they get the kind of exercise that fulfils their hardwired needs and keeps them happy and so better behaved. As an example, if your idea of exercise perfection is the peace and tranquillity of yoga, you’re not going to enjoy being dragged out to run a marathon or play football in the rain. 

Also think of things you can do with your dog in the home to keep them enriched and content – such as interactive problem-solving games or scent games – or just a fun training session. Any dog spending 22 hours a day relaxing is going to come out of the house like a whirlwind!

How to help a dog with antisocial behaviour

Boredom and frustration cause many behaviour problems, both in the house and out of it, and so just by looking at your dog’s routine and where you can improve it, can lead to a transformation in the behaviour of many teenage tearaways.

If however, having done all of this, you are still worried about your dog’s behaviour, don’t delay… Seek the help of a professional. If it is training problems you are having – such as your dog won’t come back when you call them, then find an accredited and qualified local trainer. If it is behaviour issues you are having, then contact a qualified and experienced behaviourist. 

Do not be embarrassed – or even worse, think your problem is too small. We really have heard it all – and it’s what we are here for. All good canine professionals love to be asked to help at the stage where the problem isn’t deeply engrained and it is easy to solve. 

Even better, a key part of our job is to improve the relationship between dogs and their people – and who doesn’t want that?

*If you are concerned your dog might hurt or injure someone, contact an accredited behaviourist immediately. 

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