"Dog behavior starts with understanding the
root cause of a behavioral problem. While you can't control the genetic
predisposition and intelligence of a dog, you can control the
environment. For example you are in charge of your dog's self esteem
and confidence. Always start
by thinking through why a dog behaves like they do. Is there
something you or a family member are doing to create confusion instead
of clear expectations? Once a behavior is understood, it can
either be modified using positive reinforcement or the cause/trigger
eliminated. Negative punishment involves removing something positive
such as limiting the freedom to roam around the house or a favorite
toy. The goal is
always to build your dog's self confidence while reinforcing the
positive behavioirs that make him or her part of the family.
If all a dog hears is "no" (or at least more
"no" than "yes"), then it is no wonder that a dog lacks confidence and
direction). Each type of behavior
problem is detailed below such as digging, chewing, barking, licking
and aggression. We suggest starting with the first video
and then skipping down to the list of articles
that provide detailed information on
each type of desired canine behavior. Last, you can consult with a veterinary behaviorist or ask our Vet a question which we
will answer for free on a first come, first served basis."
Dog Training Relies on Positive
Reinforcement Using Things the Dog Perceives As Being Good Such as
Food, Toys, Exercise and Play
If you’re going to have a dog, it helps to understand some of the
basics of canine behavior. You’ll want to know what is normal behavior
and how to deal with problem behavior. Here are some things you can
Picture of Dog
with Training Lead. Dog Behavior is often corrected with the use of a
dog lead as shown here. For example, teaching your dog without a
lead to "come" let's him or her choose whether or not to obey. If you
are holding a lead and can reinforce the request by pulling the dog to
you, the dog learns who is the "alpha dog". By: WSU Veterinary School
Different Types of Canine Behavior
This help video from "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millon shows real life
dog behavior examples.
Dog Aggression Tips
behavior in dogs is not a normal or acceptable. If a dog is
growling, snarling, snapping, and/or biting at
you or family members, then it is showing behaviors that need to be
modified. The first signs of aggression much be corrected in order to
keep it from becoming a long term problem.
Aggression can also evolve over time and can show itself
unexpectedly. For example, a dog might also place more
importance on a possession such as a toy or roll of toilet paper.
Anyone that disturbs or comes near that object might be the target of
The leading cause of aggressive dog behavior is dominance. Dogs are
animals. Aggression means that a dog objects to you being the leader of
the pack. Signs are a dog get possessive in that once they obtain a
toy, an area of the home or food will try and keep it. Some dogs will
get aggressive when they are prevented from an activity that they like
to do. Dominance dog aggression is often to other family members. The
dog is acting in contempt due to the weak social standing of the family
member, sometimes exhibited by a person that always gives in to
requests for more food or petting. A dog can even be aggressive to only
the most dominant person in the family, since this is the only person
worthy of the challenge.
Dogs might also exhibit different levels of aggressive dog behavior
during different times of the day. In the morning a dog might be safe
while in the evening it might not.
Often aggression starts as a puppy while testing different
behaviors. If they growl and get to keep an object such as a ball, then
they learn that not only is the aggressive behavior acceptable, but
it is rewarded, in this case by keeping the ball. If you think about
how a puppy learns, at first if it bites too hard on the mom underbelly
during feeding, the mother dog will rebuke the pup. If the puppy then
bites a littermate, they are also rebuked. When the puppy comes home
with a person, if they are not clearly warned against biting (a firm
"stop it" or tap on the nost wiht a finger) then they think the person
is a new toy and they will continue the behavior. Another approach is
to put your hands in your pocket after being nipped. With a puppy it is
only natural for them to explore with their mouths, but once it gets
harder, then you need to withdraw the pleasure, your warm reaction,
from the behavior.
A Dog Baring
Teeth Can Be A Sign of
Photo Credit: Best Friends Animal Society
Signs of Dog Aggression:
Dogs exhibiting aggressive behavior will exhibit one or more signs.
Owners cannot always see the signs as they can be subtle and are
expressed through posture, manuevering and expression (4). The easiest way to recognize an aggressive
posture is to note any changes from normal along with one or more of
the signs listed below.
Fear Based Aggression
Lay back the ears
Tail between legs (a dog that appears to be passive may still
attack, always be cautious)
Avoidance of eye contact
Lowered head and tail
Tense body posture
Horzontal lip retraction
Moving slowly or freezing
Dominatly aggressive, territorial or possesive dogs
Stand stiff and erect (looks taller than usual)
Eyes focused in a stare
Ears upright and forward
Vertical lip retraction
Other Signs of Aggressive Behavior
Dog Aggression Training:
should also be trained out of aggression as a fear response,
particularly to people. Puppies that are not around people can learn to
fear them. Later in life when visitors come to the house they may act
out this fear with aggressive behaviors.
Take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out physical causes for
or her aggression. Then seek help from a dog behavior specialist. Don’t
allow aggressive behavior to continue - it won’t get better on its own,
and will probably just get worse. Until you are able to get help to
correct the issue, keep your dog confined as necessary to keep people
Fear Aggression Training:
Then read the signs for aggression. If a dog is aggressive due to
fear, then your dog requires more exposure and socialization. A fearful
dog sometimes proactively acts dominant out of fear that if they don't
go on the offensive, they will be harmed. Often fear aggression
response is learned early in life as the result of some type or
traumatic occasion. Treatment involves understanding and avoiding the
Dominance Aggression Training
If the aggression is due to possessiveness, territorial aggression
or the need to be dominant, then an obedience program with a trainer or
dog behaviorist is needed to send a clear signal that the humans in the
household are dominant. The key to rehabilitation is to re-establish
dominance over the dog. Training involves making the dog work to get
things it takes for granted. The dog needs to feel dependent on the
people in the family for attention, praise, food, exercise and toys.
This approach works within 2 months in 90% of cases.
Dogs bark. They bark to warn us of strangers, to let us know when
need to go outside, to tell us when they are hungry, when they get
excited, and for many other reasons. Sometimes dogs bark too often,
which is known as nuisance barking.
There is a healthy level of barking. Some dogs that are happy bark when
something demanding or exciting happens. These dogs will stop barking
with a command such as ("No-bark", "Quiet") as a signal that fun time
Dogs who have not been properly socialized will bark excessively
when guests are over. The socialization process starts from birth, by
making sure that your puppy gets used to spending time with different
people and in different circumstances. With exposure to noises and
people, comes familiarity, which reduces the need to bark as a dog gets
Dogs also tend to bark when they have been left alone for long
periods of time, often as a result of boredom. Make sure your dog has
plenty of toys to occupy him,
and give him plenty of exercise. Tired dogs are less likely to bark.
You can also try a stop
barking dog collar which uses a small punishment such as a sound or
smell to discourage barking.
neighbors barking dog you can use an outdoor anti
barking device which uses an ultrasonic tone that only dogs
hear. It is activated by barking and works from 50 feet away. The tone
is irritating to a dog, so a dog will learn to avoid those actions that
cause the tone to go off.
As an alternative you can select a non
barking dog breed (all dogs make some type of noise) or select a
dog that has a calm temperament. As a last resort there is a surgical
procedure called debarking that will reduce barking but is obviously
Start with a basic method of dog behavior training such as a
leash and collar. Give the leash a small jerk when the dog is barking.
If your dog is not on a leash, then use a shaker can to indicate that
you are not happy with the behavior.
If dog barking occurs when the dog is alone, try leaving the
radio on in the room. Another approach is to tape the family talking
and then let that play. During taping, tape the word "no" about every
Pretend that you are leaving the house such as grabbing the keys.
Exit the house, but then quickly re-enter when your dog starts to bark.
You might need to get in the car or push an elevator button for a
convincing performance. Once you quickly re-enter the home, show your
disapproval. This can be teh use of a shaker can, or place a drop of
lemon juice on your dog's tounge. Repeat the process 5 or 6 times. Be
sure to show your disapproval.
There are many helpful dog behavior tips in this stop dog barking
Video: Dog Barking
Dog Chewing Problems
Dogs have a need to chew things, especially puppies when teething.
It is perfectly natural. However, as dog owners, we don’t want them to
chew our shoes and other
items. The number one cause of the problem is boredom. To prevent
chewing from becoming a destructive behavior, it is
important to provide your dog with plenty of appropriate chew toys. You
also need to realize that many dogs chew when they are bored. Make sure
to give your dog plenty of playtime.
You can also try a product made to deter the chewing of specific
objects such as bitter
apple spray. Your dog will get the idea that chewing on
objects is a much better idea.
Digging is a
Natural Dog Activity
Photo Credit: Tup Wanders
Digging is another natural dog behavior that can drive owners
crazy. In nature digging provides a place where a dog can create a den
provide shelter for puppies. There are several reasons why your dog
might be digging. The key to correcting the behavior is to try and
identify the reason, and then take one of the corrective actions
Trying to Get At a Hidden Animal in the Ground: Hunting is a
natural dog behavior, particularly among certain breeds. If you can,
remove small animals from your property. Live traps are a humane way to
capture and then move a small rodent or squirrel to another area.
Burying to Hide a Favorite item: Try and eliminate from your
yard the types of things that your dog buries. Dog bones are often the
cause. You can also train your dog to bury items in a more acceptable
area set up just for them.
For the fun of it as a form of play: The choices are to either
create an area for your dog to dig or block the area with a fence.
Another option is to place a training device in the area you would like
your dog to avoid such as a Snappy Trainer.
These will will harm the dog and
will make a loud noise whenever the dog ventures into an area that is
To create a place where they can keep cool or warm: To correct
this dog behavior consider adding an alternative to your yard such as a
ventilated dog house. An outdoor bed may also provide a place for your
dog to lay down outdoors.
To get at food in the ground such as plant roots: Try and remove
fence what is of interest to your dog. The Snappy Trainer mentioned
above could also be of help.
To escape confinement such as in a yard: First determine if your
dog escapes due to separation anxiety of because of fear. Signs of
separation anxiety are trembling, pacing, whining, howling or
destroying items to get your attention. If fear is the problem the key
is to try and determine what is the dog afraid of and then using
behavior modification techniques (strangers, lightening etc.).
Anti-anxiety natural (e.g; Pet Calm) or
prescription medicines may be of help
if recommended by a veterinarian. If your dog simply likes to escape
for the fun of it, then the best approach is better fencing, or the use
of electronic and actual fencing.
As the results of some other behavior problem such as
Dogs will often dig in the yard when they have been left outdoors
for too long with nothing to do. Make sure your dog has appropriate
toys to play with, and play with him as well. Dogs will also dig so
that they can lie in the cool dirt when it’s hot outside. Make sure
your dog has a cool place to rest outdoors.
Licking is a natural dog behavior learned at birth with the mother
licking the puppy. It is how some dogs to express themselves. The key
to correcting this behavior is to understand why it is occurring in a
that is uncomfortable for the pet parent. Also, dogs sometimes
misinterpret our desire, and will lick more to try and please the
owner. It is also a good idea to rule out any medically based reasons
for excess licking such as pain (injury), skin allergy or fleas.
Psychological disorders such as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) can
also be a root cause.
Granuloma is Caused by Excessive Paw Licking
A veterinarian can diagnosis a dog yeast infection during a
examination. The vet will check the ears using a device called an
otoscope. They can also inspect any fluid under a microscope. Tests are
designed to determine if there is an excessive amount of yeast on
diseased skin or ears using a fungal culture reviewed under a
Tips for correcting dog licking:
Be Consistent: Don't allow licking some of the time, and not
other times. The lack of consistency is confusing for the dog and sends
a mixed signal.
Make Your Skin Less Appealing: Apply a training spray to your
skin such as Bitter
Apple. The bad taste will deter future licks.
As As If In Pain: Dogs will not want to hurt you.
Provide An Alternative: Some dogs just need to show they like
you. Consider another trick such as shaking hands or stomach rub as a
way to provide your dog with an outlet for affection.
Behavior Modification: Work with a trainer to teach your dog an
alternative dog behavior such as chewing on a toy or play. The
of a command and alternative behavior can be helpful.
Dog Licking Paws
Note that a dog may also lick the paws due to a foreign object in
the paw or a condition called
lick dermatitis. It can be caused by a behavioral problem or an
underlying medical condition such as arthritis.
Large breed dogs such as Doberman pinschers, Great Danes, German
shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers and Irish setters are
affected by acral lick dermatitis.(6).
Treatment involves dog behavior modification and the treatment of any
symptoms including any damage to the paw. Some believe that the self
injury is the result of boredoem. In this case an increased exercise
schedule, play with other dogs and increased play with toys is called