Do badly behaved dogs start out that way or are they are helped along by their owners? Animal behaviour expert Sally Hibbard explains where owners may be going wrong.

In case you missed it: This was the most popular Talk to the Animals blog of 2014.

Dogs are complex creatures still retaining many of the instincts and behaviors of their wolf ancestors.

What we may perceive as bad is often a predictable response when viewed in the context of normal canine behavior.

Bringing a little 'wolf' into the family and the urban environment requires research and forethought and a commitment to the animal's lifelong needs.


I spoke with dog training and behavior expert Pete Pedersen who shared his thoughts and experiences from many years of dealing with naughty dogs and naughtier owners. Mr Pedersen runs group puppy classes through to individual training for specific issues.

It seems that having a badly behaved dog is surprising easy and can be achieved in any of the following ways:

Adopting a dog for the wrong reasons

Just like children, a dog needs to be wanted, and to be cared for in a suitable environment by those with the knowledge, skills and means to do so.

Taking on dog ownership simply to provide the children with a plaything, or to teach them 'responsibility' without a full understanding of what's involved will almost certainly produce a badly behaved dog.

Similarly, obtaining a dog purely to guard your home will yield the same result. Think carefully about your reasons for adopting a dog.

Choosing an unsuitable breed for your lifestyle

Dogs come in many shapes and sizes and have different predilections according to the origin of the breed and original purpose.

Some research into this will prevent inappropriate choices from the outset.

For example, choosing a working dog such as a huntaway or German shepherd and confining it to a small yard with nothing to do will instantly produce 'bad behavior' through no fault of the dog.

Photo / Thinkstock

Treating your dog like a human

A dog is not a child and to treat it as such leads to unfair expectations of that dog's behavior.

Even the smallest cutest looking ball of fluff is still a dog.

Not exercising your dog

Physical exercise is vital to a dog's wellbeing and if not able to expend energy you can almost certainly be guaranteed of undesirable behaviors from your pet.

Daily exercise is essential every day outside of the home.

Not training your dog

Failing to train a dog will result in a very confused canine unsure of their place in the household and constantly pushing the boundaries with regard to behavior.

Start training early with a puppy class that incorporates obedience as well as playtime. A short daily training session after a walk will help cement desirable behaviors, maintain obedience skills and stimulate the dogs mind.

Not keeping to a regular training regime with your dog is much the same as not sending your child to school and continually reinforcing their learning.

Getting all your info from the internet

The internet is a great source for breed information and other general topics however it's not the best place to find solutions to a badly behaved dog.

A 'one size fits all' approach does not take into account underlying issues likely to be contributing to the undesirable behavior. Seek out the services of a professional trainer or dog school.

Failing to interact with your dog

Giving your dog free reign at the dog park is great exercise but is not the same as interaction with you, and other members of the family.

Training time and playtime is important to provide companionship and reinforce the bond with your pet.

Not socialising your dog

A poorly socialised dog is essentially set up to fail when it encounters others.

Socialisation should include other dogs, children, adults and pets and be conducted in a controlled supervised environment. Puppy classes are the perfect place to begin.

Having a dog as part of the family is a truly rewarding experience but not one that should be taken lightly or entered into on impulse.

A knowledge and awareness of the needs of dogs and what drives them is a must when it comes to the privilege of canine ownership.