Problem Behaviors Dog Training Checklist

When an unwanted, or problem, behavior occurs, our first reaction tends to be “just make it stop!” Guess what? That is a totally reasonable, human thing to do at first. There’s no shame in having that initial reaction (I’ve been there!). This Problem Behaviors Checklist will help you learn how to approach these behaviors in a way that sets both you and your dog up for success. Step one is to make sure your dog is physically sound.

Discomfort or pain aren’t always obvious from the outside, but sudden or prolonged behavior changes can be a sign that something is wrong. It is always best to check with your vet first before implementing a training plan. It will be hard to make progress if the underlying health concerns that are contributing to the behavior haven’t been addressed.

Exercise is vital for a physically healthy dog, and too little (or too much!) can contribute to problem behaviors. We want to fulfill our dogs’ exercise needs without leaving them exhausted. The saying “a tired dog is a happy dog” is not necessarily true. Beyond the amount of exercise your dog needs, the type of exercise matters too. Be wary of playing fetch. Dogs aren't designed to run and then make hard sliding stops and turns - especially over and over and over again. Fetch can cause joint damage and lead to injuries. As with most things in life, fetch in moderation can be fun, but it shouldn’t be your dogs’ main source of exercise.

Sleep is also an important aspect to consider. Dogs require a lot more sleep than we do, and their behavior reflects their sleep as much as ours does. Making sure that your dog gets 14-16 hours of GOOD sleep per day will keep their body (and mind!) functioning properly.

Step two is addressing your dog's mental health.

Now that you have made sure your dog doesn’t have underlying health concerns and their physical health needs are being met, it is time to dive into their mental well-being. We as humans tend to push our mental health to the side, to our detriment in the long run. Meeting your dog’s mental health needs will change the game when you start to train. If your dog isn’t in a safe or healthy headspace, training won’t be productive and will leave you frustrated and your dog stressed.

Take a moment and think about the behavior you’re struggling with. Is it species or breed appropriate? For example, maybe you have a border collie who is chasing and nipping your children. Border collies herd, and they will find ways to do so regardless of their living situation. Your next step is to think of healthy outlets where they can perform that behavior safely. In the example above with the border collie, rolling toys and treiball are great options. If you need help figuring this one out, let me know!

Now, consider how much time your dog has to decompress. Another thing we humans tend to struggle with is taking time for ourselves to breathe and relax. Our society, at least where I’m located in the US, is constantly equating worth and value with out much you work and how much money you make. This doesn’t lead to healthy mental health habits (I definitely just called myself out here). Taking a step back with your dog and making sure you fight that pressure will go a long way. Let them sniff, give them things to chew and lick, and give them plenty of down time and rest where they are trigger-free.

Enrichment is the last key to mental health that I’ll discuss here. Take some time to learn what enriches your dog. Long sniffaries? Stuffed kongs? Shredding cardboard? Be creative and remember that there are endless opportunities out there to enrich your dog, you just have to look for them!

Do you need support with your dog’s problem behaviors? You have options! I offer private lessons and a community designed to give you as much care and support as you need. I also have a self-paced workshop called Chaotic to Calm that focuses on problem behaviors when you’re out and about.