Bad dog

There is no such thing as a bad dog

Bad dog

There is no such thing as a bad dog

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The expression, “Bad dog!” is one we wish we could erase from our history. Animals are not inherently bad and there is no such thing as a bad pet. However, our pets can behave badly. It is also sadly commonplace for humans to perceive normal pet behaviour as ‘bad’ behaviour. Today we focus on defining dog behaviour and the part pet parents play in their pets’ habits.

Defining dog behaviour as good or bad

Humans tend to see ‘good’ dogs as dogs that are obedient, quiet and not messy. But pets are not ornaments, and even though some are no mess no fuss, most are not. So, if a dog barks, digs, destroys your favourite carpet, drips water all over the floor or brings a large portion of your new potted plant (followed by a trail of mud) into the house to chew on, then he is doing exactly what dogs are supposed to do; be a dog. Sure, it is not nice to find your expensive sneakers all chewed up, but these are things that humans should control by way of planning.

What is not bad dog behaviour and what you as a pet parent can do to change it

Normal barking

It is normal for your dog to alert you when someone is at the door or when they hear a strange noise or see something they are not familiar with. It is also normal for dogs to bark when they are playing and when they are around other animals.


Some breeds were bred to hunt, which is why they like to dig.


Dogs chew for many reasons. Chewing aids boredom and stress, is good for dental health and is fun.

Excited urinating

Inappropriate or excited urinating, when not related to a medical issue, is normal dog behaviour. Puppies urinate when they are excited, as do some older dogs. Dogs will also urinate to show you that they are not a threat.

Behaviours that need specific attention

Although these are not bad behaviours, they are behaviours that need attention as they could lead to aggression, complaints from neighbours or an uncomfortable or stressed environment for both your dog and your family.

Excessive barking. Excessive barking is a symptom of boredom, anxiety, separation anxiety, illness or some other cause. If you can find the cause you can better control the behaviour. 

Urinating in the home. Dogs urinate when they feel threatened, or when they have been inappropriately trained. If your pet was allowed to urinate in the house as a puppy, you will find it hard to change that behaviour later on.

What you as a pet parent can learn to do, and learn not to do

Divert attention

This is arguably the best way to get a dog to stop doing something. 

Recognise when your pet is ill or stressed

Take time to find the cause of a behaviour. For example, if your dog is licking excessively, ask a veterinarian to check what is going on before attempting training. This could save you and your pet a lot of frustration.

Do not shout

Shouting at a dog to stop doing something rarely does any good. Shouting causes stress in the home and pets do not respond positively to a stressful environment.

Take time to learn training techniques

Your veterinarian may suggest a good trainer or school for dogs. There are many fun and creative ways to teach a pet new habits.

Be consistent

If you have started a training program, make sure that you stick to the rules. Patience and consistency is key to a successful behavioural change.

A final note to pet parents

Dogs behave badly when they are inappropriately trained or have not been trained at all. However, recognising that animals are fun-loving, energetic creatures that bring joy with the chaos they create is the first step to cherishing life with them. Laugh when they pee on you, take a photo of the cushion they destroyed and make sure you capture that video of them digging up the yard in the rain, which only happens when you are not looking. Letting them get away with just being who they are meant to be is what pet parents do. Of course, we do not suggest letting them run wild. All pets need to be taught what is right and what is wrong. And, feeling safe mitigates the chance of ‘bad’ behaviour leading to aggression.  

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