Skip to main content
San Diego Humane Society

Behavior Challenges

Animals often behave in ways we don’t understand, and without being able to ask them about their behavior directly (like we can with another person), it can feel challenging to address behavior we don’t like. If you’re a pet owner, you’ve probably found yourself asking, “why is my pet behaving this way?” It may not seem like there’s a clear reason, but behavior is not random, and the sooner we can learn to understand our pet, the sooner we can find a solution that works for both of us.

Some behavior challenges are simpler to solve than others. When you are thinking about a behavior your pet does that you do not like, ask yourself the questions below.

Example behavior: Jumping up on the counter

  1. What happens just before this behavior occurs? You walk into the kitchen at mealtime.

  2. What is it about the behavior that I don’t like? It’s unsanitary.

  3. What are some things my pet may be trying to achieve? Sneak a snack or get your attention while you are preparing a meal.

  4. What is my current response to this behavior? I give them attention by chiding them or it becomes a fun game of “keep away”. (This may give you a clue as to what your pet is trying to achieve when they jump on the counter.)

  5. How can I meet both our needs in this situation? They can have a treat as long as they wait patiently and don’t jump on the counter.

  6. What would I like my pet to do instead? Wait quietly on a bed or mat while I am in the kitchen. In turn, I will reward them with praise and treats for being patient and polite.


The more you can ask yourself these questions and think from your pet’s perspective, the better you’ll be able to find a solution that works for both of you.

To learn more about how to solve specific behavior challenges, click on the article topics under the Behavior Challenges category and the category Training Should Be Fun!

If you find yourself unable to understand what your pet may need in that situation or if the situation is unsafe, please reach out to a professional positive reinforcement-based trainer from our Trainer Directory to help you and your pet through your behavior challenges.

Behavior Helpline: Contact Our Behavior Team

For behavior questions, please contact our Behavior Helpline either by calling 619-299-7012, ext. 2244, emailing or filling out our Ask a Trainer form. San Diego Humane Society adopters can fill out the Post Adoption Consultation form to schedule their troubleshooting session. We aim to respond within seven days, but responses may take up to two weeks. Thank you for your patience!

Note: Due to the potential for serious injury, canine and feline aggression are best handled by a professional who specializes in aggressive behaviors. Because phone or email counseling is inadequate for addressing serious behavior concerns, we ask that you contact a qualified professional for help. Please refer to the list of behavior resources here.

Questions About Public Classes

San Diego Humane Society offers training classes and resources to address a variety of needs for companion animals.

Our training philosophy is based on the behavioral science concepts of positive reinforcement. Training your pet using these concepts will not only help them learn new behaviors more quickly, but it will also strengthen the bond you share.

Please visit our website for a current schedule of training classes or call 619-279-5961. 

View Training Classes   Gift a Training Class


Resource Center Our Programs and Services Educational Resources