Why your dog may have behavioural problems and how you can resolve them

As any dog lover will tell you, every dog is unique, with its own set of peculiarities, delights, and challenges to discover.

However, it can often be a challenge in itself to identify why your beloved pet pooch might be acting in a particular way, and what you can do to address it.

Here, we outline some of the most common reasons behind behavioural problems in dogs, together with the best solutions:

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Lack of Exercise

To stay happy and healthy, dogs require plenty of physical exercise; a short, on-leash walk around the block simply isn’t going to cut it.

As observed by the PDSA, a lack of exercise has led to a ‘shocking’ rise in destructive and aggressive behaviour, with both people and fellow pets on the receiving end of canines that are invariably bored, anxious, or badly trained.

Dogs that are kept cooped up indoors all day are liable to become bored and will look for various means of entertaining themselves, leading to scenes of scattered rubbish, chewed shoes and ripped up furniture.

Making sure your dog gets enough exercise helps to increase their flexibility and endurance, strengthens muscles around the joints, and can help stave off a number of health problems related to obesity.

The amount of exercise your dog needs is determined by a range of factors, including breed, age, health, and personality.

While the likes of Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas and Pekingese will usually need around 30 minutes per day plus play time, Shetland Sheepdogs, Cocker Spaniels and Bassett Hounds require upwards of an hour, and two hours for Golden Retrievers, Border Collies and Dalmatians.

Poor Diet

There are a variety of health issues associated with feeding your dog a low-quality or unsuitable diet, such as indigestion, food allergies, and ear infections.

What’s more, it can have an adverse effect on behaviour, and switching your dog’s diet to food of a lower quality may cause them to start acting out.

For example, a dog that’s suffering from a urinary tract disorder caused by its diet may become uncharacteristically stressed and irritable due to the pain and discomfort. 

Ensuring that your dog is always fed a high-quality and balanced diet will not only help them to maintain a healthy body weight – which has been linked to a 20% longer lifespan – but will also improve their overall mental wellbeing.

Changes to/Lack of Routine

Just as people benefit from having a daily routine in place, so do dogs.

Without a regular schedule, dogs can become anxious, withdrawn, or even disobedient.

Introducing a routine helps to set clear boundaries for your dog, enabling them to learn the difference between right and wrong and ultimately making them feel less stressed and more settled in their surroundings.

Similarly, changes to established routines or environments have the potential to throw dogs off and contribute to their anxiety.

Because our four-legged friends crave familiarity in order to fulfil their basic needs, such as food, shelter and safety, it doesn’t even have to be a change to their own routine that can upset them, it can be a change in yours as well.

In these instances, it’s important to be patient with your pet, guiding them through the transition with kindness while they adapt to the changes.

Genetic Causes

Issues with behaviour, including aggression and hyperactivity, can sometimes be attributed to what your dog has inherited from its parents.

When purchasing a puppy, it is crucial to ask whether the parents have positive temperaments. If they haven’t, there’s a high chance that the puppy will have a poor temperament too.

There is no need to immediately despair, however, as strong socialisation can sometimes override poor genetics. Consider taking your puppy to a socialisation class where they can grow accustomed to being around other dogs and humans.   

The key period for socialisation is between the ages of three and 16 weeks as this can help to develop a well-balanced dog. If a puppy is deprived of proper socialisation at this critical stage, it’s much more likely that they will be shy, fearful or aggressive as an adult.


Having a clearer understanding of the common, potential causes of behavioural problems can make it easier to determine what is happening with your dog.

By ruling out the various origins of change, narrowing down to a cause for the undesirable behaviour can help you to eliminate it quickly.

However, if you feel that your dog’s behaviour is too severe, it’s a good idea to look for a reputable trainer who might be able to help you.

Luke Chapman is managing director of Vale Pet Foods 

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