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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It is pouring rain here today.. so I wander over here to ask and learn.

OTHER THAN POTTY TRAINING (we have a sticky for that one)..
...What are the most common behavior issues seen in pet dog training..
..and why/how do you think they get started?

Is it dog genetics? Poor handling? A combination of the two? Veterinary issues? Lack of understanding dogs by owners? Diet?
 

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I'd say one of the biggest - if not the biggest - is leash manners. Partially because it's a problem that tends to spiral: in the average pet dog household, a dog that doesn't walk nicely on leash gets taken out less, exercised less, and doesn't get the benefit of going to different places and being exposed to many different sights and experiences (mental stimulation, socialization, etc). This results in a dog whose behavior is worse when they do get taken out on leash, because they're underexercised and overstimulated, which means the owners are less inclined to take them out next time, and it just feeds into itself.

I think it's inherently an issue of us needing to teach dogs something that's entirely unnatural to them. You might be able to select for genetic tendencies that make leash walking easier to learn (handler focus, a preference to be physically close to their people, biddability, etc), but you can't exactly select for "walks nicely on lead" because it's entirely a learned behavior. In fact, we have to teach a dog to go against their natural reactions - that oppositional reflex where they automatically resist pressure on their neck or body rather than giving into it - to get the results most of us want. I think a lot of people (talking about the average dog owning population here) underestimate how difficult teaching leash manners is, because it's something EVERY dog needs to know, so of course it's something that EVERY dog should be able to do quickly and easily, right? And don't give it the time and attention it deserves while their dogs are still young and small. Not sure if there's any solution other than making sure people have access to affordable, reliable training resources, and generally working to increase cultural awareness that it needs to be taught early and often.

Most other common issues are, imo, a case of natural dog behavior clashing with human expectations. Barking, jumping, chewing, food stealing, resource guarding, even some kinds of aggression. We ask a LOT from modern dogs when it comes to managing their natural behaviors and impulses in a way that humans find polite and acceptable. It's one of the reasons why I'm very strongly for ethical breeding of companion dogs - purebred or otherwise - who have more laid-back temperaments and whose needs are easier to meet in the average home. Though of course education about the work and time that goes into responsible dog ownership is also extremely important.

I know we see a lot of more serious issues here - reactivity, anxiety and fearfulness, dog-dog aggression, dog-human aggression, etc. - but I also think that any internet forum for dog advice is going to be skewed that way. People are less likely to search a place like this out and post for "average" dog problems when there's lots of free and affordable resources out there, or that even a below-average trainer can help improve to an acceptable degree.
 

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I have been seeing a lot of recall issues (off leash and even in the house). I think this has to do (with the dogs I have seen) with the owner not making EVERY time the dog comes to them (from puppyhood on) a really positive experience for the dog. This means no matter what you are doing or how mad you are, that dog comes to you and it is fun times for the dog. Food rewards, toys, praise.. all of those things at once.. whatever it takes to make it a good thing. On the flip side of that is never calling a dog to you then doing something the dog doesn't like such as a bath or being left in a kennel etc. I also see owners that chase their dogs (which becomes a game).. instead of running in the opposite direction so the dog chases THEM instead (different game).

Of course this is not even in the face of the Squirrel and prey drive and the difficulties that can present.
 

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I'm probably particularly sensitive to this, but: resource guarding. If I see another video, or have another person tell me that their secret to preventing/handling it is sticking their hands in bowls, sticking their face in the bowl, or just straight up yanking the bowl away while their dog is trying to eat I think I might lose it.

Some dogs just naturally don't do a lot of guarding. Some are clearly displaying stress behaviors but if they're not growling or biting the owners think all is good.

Growing up, we were always taught to leave the dogs alone while they ate. My current dog had some pretty serious guarding issues that did need to be addressed (more toward other animals than people) and I think if I had followed the above advice it would have been incredibly dangerous. Thankfully, I did not.
 

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I would say that very normal dog behaviors such as jumping up, mouthing, and destructive behavior are among the most common behavior "problems" that owners run into and don't always know how to handle. Where does it come from? It's normal! It's just what a dog who doesn't yet know how to navigate the human world does! Even the most well-bred dog is going to practice those behaviors if they're never taught differently.

I thing this might be especially true if someone is a first time dog owner, or even if it's the first dog they've owned as an adult that they were solely responsible for. It can be surprising when that cute little ball of fluff suddenly gets bigger and stronger and the behaviors one thought were "cute" is now...not so much. The completely chaos puppies and adolescent dogs bring to a household can be surprising for even an experienced dog owner if they've been living with mature adults for some time!
 

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Even the most well-bred dog is going to practice those behaviors if they're never taught differently.
I agree in most part, but have to say breed enters into it more than most people realize. Neither of my Akitas would have jumped on a person unless really lured into it, and I think it would have taken being in the middle of pretty vigorous play to get them to do it. Same for mouthing and biting. For the jumping, I think it was beneath their dignity. Not sure about the mouthing and biting, but they had very soft mouths and it just wasn't part of them. (Keep in mind I had Akitas in the 60s and 70s. I get the impression the breed has changed in many ways since then.)

My Rotties were all very into both of jumping up and puppy biting, and a couple of them had pretty hard mouths. The one I still have will be 8 in early October, and if I don't say, "Gentle," every time I give her a treat, I risk her hitting me with teeth, not hard enough to really hurt but harder than I like. In training, handing out treats one after another, she's okay, but her instinct is to grab.

Neither Akitas nor Rotties were whiners. Gibbs the German Pinscher is, and I suspect that's a breed feature since I know a littermate sister is the same. He's not a barker at all, but he is a whiner.

A couple of years ago, I was interested in another smaller breed after seeing them at shows. A little research, and I ran across statements like this, "Known to be hard to housebreak." That put a big X through that breed for me. A Rottie acquaintance who is now into smaller dogs as I am was recently at a show with her adult dog of that breed, and I asked her if he was completely housebroken. She fudged and then admitted she does find small wet spots here and there around her house sometimes.

It's not fair to get a high energy dog and expect them not to jump and mouth as a youngster. It would be plain stupid for some one like me to get a dog of a breed that doesn't housebreak easily or 100% when I feel the way I do about that particular thing. Yet I'd bet something like 90% of all pet owners choose breed on appearance. I confess to having done that as a young woman with the Akitas. I lucked out.
 
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