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How to Control Bad Dog Behavior

At A Glance

  • Being able to understand your pet's behavior and why it behaves as it does will help you manage issues like aggressiveness and separation anxiety.
  • Ensure you do your bit by reading your pet's body language accurately. Ensuring you meet its needs, provide ample mental and physical activities, and train it using positive reinforcement will go a long way.

Last Updated on: Feb 09, 2023

Pet owners know that being able to manage their pet’s behavior is essential.

When your pet doesn’t listen or acts anxious or destructive, understanding the causes of the behavior may be the key to correcting it. It can also help you build a better relationship with your pet.

We must give our pets adequate exercise, good nutrition, and lots of love. Since some behaviors are innate; training and observation can help your pet become accustomed to its surroundings.
Here are some ways you can more easily understand and manage the behavior of your pet.

custom oil-painted dog portraits by Poshtraits

Diagnosing The Cause Of The Bad Behavior

Before you get to how to correct dog behavior, evaluating what is going on with your pet is the first step.

Pet owners must know “why” their pet behaves badly. There’s usually a reason for it, and it may be something as simple as your pet feeling neglected and wanting attention.

Look at your pet’s environment and ask yourself questions, such as the following:

  • Does my pet feel threatened?
  • Is my pet uncomfortable?
  • Does my dog have car anxiety?
  • What is happening around my pet when it acts this way?

Figure out the where, when, why, and how so you understand what is causing the behavior. Then you can work to prevent triggers and intervene quickly when you notice the behavior starting.

dog hiding under sofa

Reading Your Pet’s Body Language

Pets can’t speak, so they use their body language to let us know when something is making them feel a certain way.

You can tell if your pet is feeling anxious, scared, content, or sad by observing its body language.

Here are some clues to help you tune into your pet’s body language:

  • Anxious – Most pets display feeling anxiety through nervous habits, including lip licking, pacing, frequent shaking, or panting.
  • Scared or threatened – Pets show a lot of tension when they feel threatened. You often may notice their ears lay flat back, their tail is tucked, they are stiff or their hair is sticking up on the back of the neck or near the tail. This feeling may cause your pet to react aggressively, so your pet may hiss, growl, or even attempt to bite.
  • Pets who are alert will have their tails up and straight, their heads tilted to the side as if they are hearing something, and their ears straight up or perked forward.
  • Content – A happy pet often has a relaxed body and submissive behavior such as laying on its back or side. They will often nuzzle or look for affection and appreciate lots of pets, responding with licks.

Understanding Pet Behaviors


Pets who act aggressively typically do so because they feel threatened or uncomfortable. If a pet is afraid of something touching a part of its body, it might retreat or act out.

You should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you believe your pet is in pain.

If your dog keeps throwing up, acts aggressively when touched, or refuses to eat, this is a telltale sign that something is wrong, and you need to call the vet.

Threatened pets often react with aggression, too, so consider if something makes them feel this way.

Are they eating and acting out when someone comes near? Could they be overstimulated from too much rough play and need a space to relax?

Vet techs at Bond Vet’s Arlington, DC animal hospital share, “Take time to evaluate the situation, and determine what you can do to help your pet feel safer and more secure”.

Some steps may include giving your pet its own area (not a crate) within the home and having the pet eat without anyone bothering it.

Separation Anxiety

Pets often feel anxious when they are left alone, feeling separated and abandoned. Have you ever noticed your pet soiling or urinating in your house when you leave?

If you notice these signs or your pet resorting to destructive behavior like tearing up sheets and furniture when you leave the house, this is a sure sign that they are suffering from separation anxiety.

Pacing, panting, and lots of licking also indicate your pet is feeling anxious.

To prevent destructive behavior, properly house-train your pet and crate it when you must leave the house. You might also consider getting a pet sitter to come to your home and keep it company if your pet has trouble being separated.

How To Correct Dog Behavior

Now that you have some background and can understand your pet’s behavior, you can effectively work to correct it.

Want to know how to correct dog behavior?

Here are some steps you can take to resolve the underlying issue.


Your pet may simply need ample stimulation to control its behavior. Offer your pet interesting activities to stimulate its senses and provide an outlet for energy.

Keep an eye on your dog’s appetite as well, and ensure it is well-nourished. Ensure you understand the breed’s activity level and requirements.

Cats enjoy scratching posts so you can provide them one so that they don’t ruin furniture. Dogs will happily spend a lot of time working on a chew toy, food puzzle, or large bone.

West Paw – Dog Treat Puzzle

Make treat time fun and educational!

This dog treat toy not only dispenses treats, but gives your pet a challenge too. This customizable puzzle holds the treats safe until your dog figures out how to nudge them out. It is made from non-toxic materials and is dishwasher safe.

Buy Now

West Paw – Dog Treat Puzzle

Make treat time fun and educational!

This dog treat toy not only dispenses treats, but gives your pet a challenge too. This customizable puzzle holds the treats safe until your dog figures out how to nudge them out. It is made from non-toxic materials and is dishwasher safe..

  • Addison B

    As seen on Google
    I bought this to help my dog’s separation anxiety when she is in her kennel, and she LOVES it. I freeze her food in the Toppl and it keeps her engaged for a long time. And I love that it keeps her mind from freaking out when I’m not there. It fits her entire meal.

  • Paul L

    As seen on Google
    I love this Toppl…this washes up easily and lasts forever…She exhausts herself… sleeps with the Toppl between her paws…I prepare and hide it…before leaving for a few hours. When I return…I have an empty Toppl and one exhausted Golden Retriever!!!

  • Julia P.

    As seen on Google
    The XL toppl had been great!…I am able to soak my dog’s full meal and it fits in it and has room for a lot of toppers as well. It takes him about an hour or so to finish his dinner. They are very durable and I will be purchasing more in the near future for sure!

Exercise And Playtime

Exercise is another great way to expand your pet’s energy. Ensure you take your pet for a lot of walks and runs, engage in playtime, or even take it for some training outdoors.

Rest is important too! Ensure your pet has a comfortable, undisturbed place to relax with a blanket, bed, and pillow.

Positive Reinforcement

Pet owners need to know that it is never a good idea to scold or punish a pet when it displays bad behavior.

Punishing doesn’t correct the behavior or resolve the issue; it only creates a negative association with the action or with you. The pet may learn to fear you or resent the idea of training.

Encourage your pet whenever it behaves well by giving it treats, toys, affection, and other rewards. This makes it more likely that your pet will work harder to behave better around you to receive rewards.

Record Pet Behavior

Recording your pet’s behavior goes a long way toward helping you figure out and identify the causes of its behavior, so you can better manage it.

Prioritize your pet’s wellness by scheduling vet visits and getting all of its vaccines to rule out any possible pain or medical conditions.

Identifying and meeting your pet’s needs can help prevent situations where your pet’s behavior becomes problematic.

how to correct dog behavior - tweet

You can seek further assistance from an animal behavioral specialist if you have concerns or don’t think your efforts are having an impact on your pet’s behavior.

Training and behavior management promote a healthy, happy lifestyle for both the pet and the owner.



I am a full-time mum of two kids and a beautiful golden retriever. Writing is my passion: from food journalism to pets, parenting tips, etc. I can write on just about everything under the sun. I have been writing for the past 7 years and during that time, I have been a regular contributor to several blogs and pet magazines. I have also written feature articles, POV pieces, and dabbled in a few different formats of writing over the years.