Many dog owners at one time or another become frustrated with their dog due to its behavior. There may be many reasons for this. It could be that the dog is destroying things through constant scratching and gnawing, or that it is going to the toilet in the house. It may be that it is violent, or threatening, to other dogs and pets or to humans. In any case where a dog’s behavior is giving you reason for concern, you should always be ready to intercede and find a way to stop the behavior becoming a long-term problem.

Problem behavior in dogs is something that can make an owner feel very pressured. We all love our pets, and when they misbehave all that we want is for them to understand that it upsets us. We really would prefer that they would behave themselves all the time, but if they are going to step over the line occasionally we would at least hope that they desist the first time we request it. If they continue it, this is when it becomes “problem behavior”. This is something that we all want to avoid.

If problem behavior becomes a major issue for you with your pet, you should sit down and consider why it is happening. Is your dog getting the right amount and kind of exercise? Does it get enough human interaction? Is there something in its diet which might be causing it to behave in a strange way? All of these issues need to be considered, as that allows us to address problem behavior.

A dog will respond to training, if the person training it has the knowledge and perseverance to make it happen. This kind of perseverance can be hard to come by, and it can be difficult to be patient. There is a lot of training that can be done simply by what nature has furnished us with, such as our voice and our hands. However, to make the job easier there are numerous tools that we can buy. Dogs are, deep down, obedient animals by nature – but it is a matter of what they obey, and finding this can be a process of trial and error.

Dogs are known to respond to what their ears tell them. They are well known for having an excellent sense of hearing in combination with their excellent sense of smell. This means that certain noises which are insignificant to humans will draw a reaction from a dog. Many trainers find that, where all else fails, it can be beneficial to use a whistle or a clicker. If a dog is misbehaving, making a short, sharp noise will get its attention like nothing else. Sometimes the wrong noise can hurt a dog’s ears – so you should research the product that you are buying to ensure that it is humane.

Other tools can play on the other senses that a dog has. Although dogs cannot see as clearly as humans, they are responsive to motion. Holding one of the dog’s toys to teach it to show restraint can be very beneficial in this respect.

There is a very commonly used phrase that most of us have heard and many have used, which goes as follows: “You have to be cruel to be kind”. Others among us will look at that phrase, or hear it said, and point out the inherent flaw in it. You do not have to be cruel to be kind. You have to be cruel to be cruel, and kind to be kind. In actual fact, cruelty and kindness are very rarely mutually applicable. Getting that straight will sort out a lot of problems, in life and when training your dog.

Now, certainly, there are times when you will need to be stern with your dog. Sometimes it will exhibit behaviors that you would really rather it did not. Some owners will tend towards the cruel side of things when punishing these behaviors, often punishing their dog with a physical blow. It should be recognised that punishing a dog consistently with physical reprimands will lead simply to either a hostile dog who will lash out without warning, or a lifeless dog which is scared to do anything for fear of reprisal.

There will be times when you need to reprimand your dog physically. A quick tap can often suffice when it is behaving in a threatening manner without good reason. Restraining it by the collar when it goes to attack a person or another animal is fine. But by beating your dog, all you are doing is removing the essential element of all pet-owner relationships – friendship.

Dogs are, in many ways, essentially simple animals. The typical pet dog will be free with its friendship if it is encouraged to do so. If it is left to its own devices and treated like a machine for entertainment, it will not be so keen to play favorites. Dogs respond to their pleasure stimulus more than anything, and it is by using this that you can train a happy, content dog while having a lot of fun yourself into the bargain. Go to a dog-friendly park anywhere in the country and you will see dogs responding to their pleasure instinct, and making their owners happy into the bargain.

One of the most simple commands, and a game that any dog will love to play, is “Fetch”. If you take your dog to a park where it can be let off its leash, take a ball with you and see the sheer joy that it gets when you sling the ball as far as you can and yell “fetch!”. It pins its ears back, and sets off in full flow, chasing down that ball, picking it up and bringing it back for another round. It does not question why you keep throwing the ball, but keeps bringing it back for another go – often waiting at your feet until you do.

This has a lot of applications in training a dog. It will be ready to learn from you if you are willing to give it the time and attention it wants. It will burn up a lot of excess energy which can make dogs lose concentration in training settings. It will also learn to respond to commands – although full marks go to you if you throw the ball, say “stay” and it does so. This can be considered something of a miracle.