There are many things that can cause a dog to have behavior problems such as aggression, nuisance barking, and nipping.
Some of these behaviors are influenced by genetics. Chihuahuas, for example, are known to be extremely vocal towards strangers and new people. This is why they have a reputation for being a “one person dog.”
On the other hand, factors such as environment and upbringing can strongly influence a dog’s behavior.
In this article, we will explore the most common dog behavior problems and provide some tips for loving dog parents on how to approach these challenges.
What is Normal Dog Behavior?
Yes! It is normal for a dog to bark!
It’s also normal for a new puppy to chew on your belongings or for some dogs to be shy around strangers.
Dogs will be dogs.
Chewing, digging, and barking are all examples of innate dog behavior. Often, what we view as a behavioral problem is simply a dog being a dog.
However, these normal behaviors become problems when they happen excessively. For example, if a stranger knocks on the door or rings your doorbell, you might expect or even want your dog to bark. Even a small dog can be a good guard dog by alerting you to the presence of strangers.
But if your dog barks throughout the night for no apparent reason, then this excessive behavior is certainly a problem.
Dog behavior specialists and experts say that misbehavior can be ranked in three levels:
- Normal misbehavior given the age and breed of your dog.
If your dog is a puppy that is beginning to teeth, chewing is normal. While it’s a behavioral problem that you want your small dog to grow out of, it is not an unusual issue. In short, before labeling something as a “problem,” consider whether or not the behavior is age or breed appropriate.
- Misbehavior that is right outside the normal expectations for your dog’s age or breed.
It’s a normal expectation for a puppy to chew, but what happens if a dog is still chewing when it’s a few years old? This is an example of a misbehavior that is “just beyond the normal range” of acceptable behavior. Another example is marking. It is normal for dogs to mark their territory, but it is excessive if your dog begins urinating all over your furniture. Sure, cleaning up a bit of urine is normal for most dog owners, but indoor marking is a no-no.
- Misbehavior that is problematic.
Aggression and biting are the two most common problematic behaviors. In most cases these issues can be attributed to a lack of early socialization, medical conditions, and genetic predispositions.
By understanding these three degrees of behavioral issues, you’ll be better equipped to learn how to solve dog behavior problems like aggression.
When to Use a Training Collar for Dog Behavioral Problems?
In a previous post, we explained how to train a small dog with a shock collar. To be clear, a shock collar can also be referred to as an e-collar or a training collar.
But that still leaves the question: when should you use a training collar for your dog?
As long as your dog is at least 6 months old, then a shock collar is safe for your pup! In addition to age, it’s also important to consider your dog’s size. If you have a dog that weighs between 5 and 15 pounds, then you’ll want to get a shock collar designed for small dogs.
E-collars are especially helpful for dogs that are stubborn or easily distracted. With a press of a button, an e-collar with a remote will help you get your dog’s attention so you can stop the unwanted behavior.
Any small dog breed can be properly trained, but toy breeds are notorious for their stubbornness. Some small dog breeds that are considered stubborn include:
- Shih Tzu
- West Highland Terrier
- Norfolk Terrier
Of course, every dog is different and has its own unique personality. If you’re unsure whether a training collar is right for your situation, we previously published a piece outlining why a shock collar might be right for your dog. We encourage you to weigh the pros and cons. It is certainly an option worth considering! And it can definitely help you when it comes to how to solve dog behavior problems like aggression.
Tips to Stop Aggression in Small Dogs
Many dog parents wonder how to stop dog aggression towards other dogs.
In some cases, small dogs are also aggressive to strangers. This is typically due to “fear aggression,” where the dog is actually fearful, but that fear manifests itself in the form of aggression.
Experts recommend that if you have a dog that is aggressive to other dogs and strangers, then you should focus on obedience training. Examples of obedience training include teaching your dog to stop, sit, or stay.
While this might sound counterintuitive, if you have a dog that is suddenly aggressive, then you will be better equipped to help the dog focus on something else, like obeying a command such as “stop.”
But what happens if your dog is growling? Sometimes dogs “see red” and get into tunnel vision-mode. When dogs are in this mindset, they’re less likely to listen to you.
This is where a training collar comes into play.
A good training collar for small dogs is all about grabbing your dog’s attention back to you. This is what allows you to stop unwanted behavior.
At Wiggle Kingdom, our training collars come with a remote so that you can grab your dog’s attention from up to 1,000 feet away.
It even comes with multiple settings so you can find the right stimulation level for your dog:
- Sound. This is the most basic level and can still be effective since dogs have more sensitive hearing than we do. In fact, it’s not uncommon for owners of small dogs to only have to use the sound setting to stop unwanted behavior like aggression.
- Vibration (with intensity levels 1-9). If sound isn’t enough to get your dog’s attention, then the next setting is vibration, which has 9 different intensity levels. The best practice is to start with the lowest level and then to work your way up until your dog pays attention to you.
- Shock (with intensity levels 1-9). If this setting is even needed, the best practice is to again start with the lowest level. While the word “shock” might sound scary, a shock collar for small dogs is designed to be safe for smaller breeds. In other words, the intensity will not be anywhere near the levels it would be for a larger dog.
Use the lowest setting you can. Start with sound, then work your way up until you find a setting that works for you.
Once you have your dog’s attention, it will be easier to stop inappropriate behavior.
Utilize obedience training commands such as stop, sit, or stay to take your dog’s attention away from the issue that’s aggravating them. Even if it doesn’t completely distract your dog, it should be enough to prevent a potential altercation.
Dog on dog aggression is dangerous for both you and your pup, so it’s important to be proactive in stopping behavior problems before they escalate.
Finally, consider the context in which your dog is aggressive. For example, if your dog is primarily aggressive to other dogs when you go on walks, then be sure to put on the training collar whenever you go on a walk.
Similarly, if your dog is aggressive whenever you have guests over, then that may also be an appropriate time for the training collar. Just be sure to keep the remote in your pocket so it is handy when you need it.
Tips to Stop Small Dogs from Unnecessary Nuisance Barking
Barking itself isn’t bad.
Again, dogs will be dogs.
They should be allowed to play, run, and bark as part of their life! Plus, dogs will bark to alert you if a stranger is coming or they sense something potentially dangerous.
However, the issue is when unnecessary barking becomes a nuisance. For example, let’s say you live in an apartment. If your dog barks incessantly throughout the night at everything that moves, then that will become an issue for both you and your neighbors.
Or maybe you live in a neighborhood where a lot of people walk and run for exercise. There are some dogs who sit by the window all day and bark at everyone who passes by the house on the sidewalk.
Nuisance barking can take shape in many forms, but these are among the most common scenarios.
This is where a remote e-collar comes into play. If your dog begins unnecessary barking, then you can immediately correct the behavior with just a push of a button.
Dogs can’t communicate like we do or remember things like we do, so they need direct association.
For example, if your dog was barking twenty minutes ago but you use the e collar now, then your dog isn’t going to understand why. They are not be able to connect the dots between their behavior in the past and the stimulation they’re feeling now. They need that immediate connection.
To stop nuisance barking with a training collar, try:
1. Identifying when your dog is most likely to bark. Is it whenever the mailman comes? Is it whenever your neighbor lets their dog out for a walk? Is it when you and your small dog are walking? By knowing when your dog is most likely to bark unnecessarily, then you will know the circumstances when you need to put the training collar on your dog. Remember, a training collar is not meant to be a 24/7 collar. Its purpose is specifically for training, not to be the primary collar used.
2. Using the stimulation immediately when the barking happens. Whether you use the sound, vibration, or shock mode, the most important thing is to be as immediate to the barking as possible. This way, your dog will understand that you are trying to communicate that barking is unwanted at this moment.
3. Being consistent. Eventually your dog will understand and there will come a time when you won’t have to use the training collar as much — or even at all. But until that time comes, consistency is key. Remember, dogs don’t have the same logic and mental processing that we have, so if you don’t consistently correct unwanted behavior, it could lead to confusion. By utilizing the training collar every time your dog excessively barks, then you’ll be able to communicate more effectively.
Tips to Stop Small Dogs from Biting and Nipping
When we think of dog bites, it’s easy to think about larger dogs.
Due to depictions in the media, many people think of large dog breeds like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers when they think of dog bites.
However, small dogs can bite and nip as well.
In fact, their size can sometimes contribute to unwanted biting and nipping.
Think about it: dogs are attracted to movement. This is why dogs chase after squirrels when they are playing outside.
Well, to a small dog, human movement such as footsteps happens at their eye level. A small dog might begin nipping at your heels because they are attracted to the movement right in front of them.
In other cases, a dog might nip at your heels in an effort to get your attention or try to control where you’re walking.
Again, the most important part about using a shock collar for small dogs is to use the minimal stimulation necessary to get your dog’s attention.
Many dogs will respond to sound or vibrate without the need for the shock setting. Remember, the idea is to bring your dog’s attention back to you, not to hurt your dog. A training collar is a communication tool, not a punishment.
In addition to using a training collar, try to understand why your dog is biting, nipping, or chewing in the first place.
For example, is your dog bored? Dogs that are bored and don’t get enough exercise will try to entertain themselves. Yes, this includes entertaining themselves through chewing. Make sure that your dog is getting adequate exercise and mental stimulation. Perhaps your dog simply needs a chew toy!
At the end of the day, understanding the root cause of a dog’s behavioral problems will help you address it and prevent it from continuing to happen.
Will Using a Shock Collar Create More Aggression, Barking or Biting?
One of the most common misconceptions is that a shock collar actually worsens behavior problems in dogs.
This stereotype only exists because of people who use shock collars the wrong way.
People who misuse training collars use it as a form of punishment or use a setting that hurts their dog. This is not right. We do not condone this.
A training collar is a tool for communication.
So with that being said, you should always use a training collar at the lowest setting possible that will still get your dog’s attention.
Many owners of small dogs find that they can easily command attention with the sound or vibrate modes without ever having to use the shock setting.
Why does this matter?
Using a setting that is too high will result in fear and anxiety in your dog. Fear is what causes “fear aggression” and anxiety can make behavioral problems even worse.
Fortunately, if you use a training collar properly, it will help stop these behaviors, not cause them. This is key when it comes to how to solve dog behavior problems like aggression.
Interested in a training collar for your dog?
Our training collar is designed specifically for small dogs between 5-15 pounds.