close-up of English bulldogNobody likes to return to a disheveled home with couch cushions torn open, or piles of toilet paper all over the floor. Pet owners often express great frustration and disappointment when their dogs exhibit bad behavior, without asking what may be the reason the dog is misbehaving. While the scenario will be different for each dog, some of the below factors may explain what is causing your pooch to be naughty. So before shouting “bad dog” or cruelly punishing him (please don’t ever, ever do that), consider what your dog might need to help curb his recalcitrance!

Causes for Dog Behavior Problems

Boredom & Lack of exercise: One of the most common causes for bad behavior is boredom. When a dog has no outlet to expel energy, he can turn to other diversions for entertainment, which often becomes problematic.

Predatory instinct: Is there a cat that prowls on the fence just out of your dog’s reach, or are they pawing at the porch that rodents might be scurrying under? Dogs can act unruly when they are unable to get at the creature they are trying to chase.

Teething/Pain: When new teeth come in, a dog’s jaw and gums ache, causing him look for something to chew to remove the tension. Use pain killers, or provide your pooch with the right toy that he can chew, bite and tear into while the new teeth are coming in.

Medical issues: Some dogs act out when they are trying to ease an ailment, if their teeth are hurting, or if they have digestive or abdominal discomfort, they may climb up into couch pillows or laundry baskets to give their bodies better support, or disrupt certain areas of the house. In extreme cases, canines also lose bladder control, and may be unable to practice the training they know, such as doing their business outside.

Hunger from random feeding times: If your pooch is on a foraging rampage, maybe it is because he is not being sufficiently fed, or the feeding times are spread too far apart. This could be causing him abdominal cramping and hunger, and the survival instinct will compel your dog to look for food anywhere he can find it.

Fear/Anxiety: Do you live by a freeway or a train station? Or do your toddler’s toys seem to agitate the dog? Some canines channel anxiety about noise and loud sounds they can’t control in a negative way. Before you get too impatient, remember that dogs hear higher frequencies than we do; maybe those noises cause him pain or anxiety in a way our ears cannot detect. This might cause them to bark repeatedly, dig and chew on items, or eliminate indoors.

Lack of Mental stimulation: Intelligent dogs need challenges, mental stimulation and tasks to keep them occupied. If you notice your dog’s boredom may stem from a lack of occupation, find new opportunities for him to stay engaged. Enroll in a doggie training program, work through obstacle courses, or provide new toys to chase and chew.

Responding to heavy punishment: When harshly disciplined, dogs generally do not understand why they are being punished. This can cause stronger, aggressive dogs to retaliate with rebellious behavior, which may result in a trashed yard or messy living room. Resist the negative attention and destructive tendencies by avoiding cruelty and working patiently with your dog.

Loneliness or lack pf companionship: Like children, animals tend to become needy when they are not given attention or sufficient love and companionship. If this occurs, consider adopting a second dog to provide a live-in playmate and entertainer for your pet. Make sure you too spend quality time with your dog each day to bring balance and ward off any feelings of neglect.

Needing boundaries: Perhaps the pup just needs some helpful reminders and boundaries to bring out his best behavior. Look into ultrasonic barriers and helpful doggie doors to give your canine the freedom he needs to roam about the property, while keeping him from spaces he should stay away from. Kick up training a notch to teach your dog about which activities are permissible and which ones aren’t.

By setting boundaries, providing enough exercise, stimulus, toys and challenges, and by making sure you don’t leave your pooch alone for too long, the destructive behaviors will hopefully be a disaster of the past!