By: Cheryl Nichols

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   “TOP” Dog Problems


Aggression toward humans rarely, if ever, goes away on it‘s own. Once you've got it you'd better take fast action or it will only get worse. If your dog is growling, snarling or snapping, address the problem now, don‘t wait. Please, seek qualified professional help immediately.


Try not to rationalize your dog‘s behavior:

   - "He doesn't like..."
   - "He was scared..."
   - "You shouldn't have... "

The reality is your dog could have chosen a different behavior to deal with the situation. He chose to threaten a human. This is always a serious problem, even when your dog is wonderful and lovable 99% of the time. The test of an aggressive dog is not what he does when he’s relaxed but how he handles stress. It's that 1% that’s dangerous!


We’ve all seen it. The over excited dog barreling across the room and planting two paws on someone’s chest in an unwanted greeting. Jumping is a common problem and one that can be annoying but also dangerous to those jumped on. Dogs are not born with the knowledge of how to greet humans, so it’s up to us to teach them. Instead of scolding your dog for jumping up, try teaching him what behavior you DO want to see, then help him succeed by asking for that behavior before any jumping begins. Teaching a solid sit command is a great alternative. Make your point clear. Jumping gets him no attention, while sitting gets him plenty. Then practice and practice some more. He’ll get it.


Marking behavior in an adult dog can often be confused for a house-training issue when in reality it’s a leadership issue. Marking is a dog’s way of asserting himself as ‘top dog‘. He marks a space that he ‘owns’. In some cases dogs have even gone so far as to mark people! A marking dog is a clear sign he may be confused about his place in your pack. Supervise your dog to prevent marking. If supervision is not possible, make good use of your crate or “doggy” diapers. Allowing him to practice this behavior will only make it harder to resolve.

   Leash Pulling

Hundreds of dogs are currently dragging their owners behind them as they chase after a squirrel, rush to greet another dog and pull like maniacs to get to some unknown destination. Leash pulling, aside from making your walks a nightmare can also be dangerous. Some dogs pull so forcefully they damage their throats. Many owners have hit the dirt hard when an untrained dog caught sight of something more interesting and decided to check it out. Not to mention the fact that a hard pulling dog can wrench the leash right out of an owner’s hand and face the possibility of getting lost, hit by a car or stolen. Every dog, regardless of breed, is capable of having a solid recall. The dangers of having a dog that runs off are many. Dogs stick with the pack, and most importantly, the leader. Become that leader and you’re on your way to having a Velcro Dog.

   Selective Hearing

If your dog ignores a command he already knows he has selective hearing. He’s making the choice to ignore you and go about his business. That falling leaf or patch of grass is far more interesting than you and he’s very clearly telling you so in dog language. You may wonder. “Maybe I didn’t say it loud enough?” No, your dog can hear your whisper from across the room. He heard you say sit, he just didn’t do it. “But he was so excited”… say. Sorry, being happy to see you or eager to greet another dog is no excuse to ignore a command. That’s what training is for. It’s to control your dog when it really counts, not just in the living room when he’s relaxed and focused.

   Destructive Behavior

Have you come home to a tattered book, frayed rug or punctured sofa? You have a destructive dog. And what’s worse is that he cowers when you find the evidence, he must know he’s done something wrong, right? As much as we want to think our dogs know exactly what damage they’re causing, your dog doesn’t think like that. He’s chewing your shoes because they have your scent on them, or ripping the sofa because it’s fun. There’s no malice or spite behind these actions. His cowering is in response to YOUR behavior. You’re no doubt upset at the evidence you’ve found and your dog can pick up on that, that is what causes him to slink away and cower, not a sense of remorse. Destructive behavior is often the result of no exercise and a lack of training. A dog who is secure in his place in your pack and has had adequate exercise is less likely to re-decorate your home while you’re away. If this behavior continues after training and exercise have been provided, then your dog may have Separation Anxiety which often requires further training to overcome.

   Resource Guarding

This is the dog who resource guards, snaps, snarls or bites when someone tries to take away something of value. A Kleenex may be a high value item to your dog. In general anything he has, and wants to keep is high value. If your dog is displaying this behavior, don’t wait, get help now! This is not a behavior that will go away on it’s own. “But he only growls around his favorite toy, can’t I just keep it away from him?” You say. A true resource guarder will transfer his aggression to another object if the original item of desire is gone. Even if your dog truly only shows aggression when he has his green ball, who’s to say someone else won’t find that green ball and bring it out? The risks are too high to simply not give a certain toy or treat. The aggression needs to be treated at the source and that means altering the way you interact with your dog to change his behavior. Seek professional help.